"This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence..." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Tito Ortiz's career brings many ideas to mind and serves as a nuanced case study of a fighter, the Will to Power that is our ambition and our Nietzchian desire for the eternal recurrence of the same. His desires as presented through his outward projection have become a naked narrative. The plight of Tito Ortiz. His desire to return to past greatness and his ever elusive (though continually assured pre-fight) 100% is an example of cognitive dissonance we have yet to witness but always assumed was there as we watched fighters continue well past their prime. For some the argument can be made that their continuation is for money, while others, often those with legacy seem to indicate another motive. To provide a context of said greatness, I go to an unlikely source, Tank Abbott. In an interview, the undoubtedly bitter, perhaps drunk Abbott, bearded and sitting upon a lawn chair in some parking lot, rambles on about the “New UFC”
“Let me tell you something, okay. Tito Ortiz is a joke. He is the champion of a joke company. Where Dana White can say “I'm gonna beat the heck out of the champion of the world”, as an old man...was going to fight Tito Ortiz, and Tito Ortiz doesn't show up for a fight?”
Behind the shit talking, the known dysfunction and anger filled history between Abbott and the UFC lays a kernel of truth. Though Abbott quickly went the way of the Dodo bird against the quick, Darwinian evolution of early mixed martial arts, his claim is sobering. Could we imagine Dana White willingly fighting any of the belt holders today? No. But he scheduled an exhibition match six years ago against a recently dominant former champion, and now hall of fame inductee.
This past week, Tito is hinted yet again at a comeback, a rebellion against the “greatest burden”, as Nietzche claims, being the eternal recurrence of the same, for Tito, a return to the best possible world, that of his past perceived greatness. He has said he could have beaten Jones in his prime, that it was injuries that made his death rattle a long slow 1-8 record in the UFC, his all too human hope that all that has occurred can repeat itself again, with accompanying emotions. It is horror movie we never see, where nothing jumps out from the dark, no creatures devour our previously accepted resilient bodies – it is the horror of regret.
For such a horror movie, there must be something haunting our protagonist. For Tito Ortiz, it is the issue of greatness, and was it ever truly there. For Ortiz I sense it is the illusory carrot that he has been pursuing for the last decade, some desire for an affirmation that it was all real, not in a physical sense – he has the belts- but an affirmation in his own head, to know that it was him that determined his fate, that greatness and a second chance is a matter of him giving it the old college try.
We can watch it unfold through his twitter, which is full of the flotsam of his mind, the positive affirmation, the promotion, and his endless hints at hurt and hope. His twitter is the best case study of the one man show that is “The People's Champ”. We see his relationships, his hopes, his self promotion, his whereabouts, his breakfast, and his inner monologue. One cannot help but feel we are bearing witness to the inner workings of his mind and a VIP seat to his epic cognitive dissonance.
Some fighters have excuses for their losses- injuries, personal problems, lack of preparedness, overconfidence, overzealousness. Tito's excuses run the gamut, but seem less about trying to appease fans, to gain understanding and empathy then they are memory distortions. Where fighters such as Chuck Liddell were given real, empirical evidence (a notable decline in his once solid chin, a higher propensity to be knocked out), Ortiz's decline cannot seem to pass the body/brain barrier, can not be digested into the world he has created. And so he comes back, again and again with the same results.
His latest implied comeback emphasizes his now “free agent” status. Tito Ortiz sends the shirtless photos out, and sits back and awaits the bidding war. But this bidding war will never happen. He tweets a photo with 5000 Birch Ave., the office of Bellator, with a hint at a new start. The photo was quickly removed. Did he make it through the door? Is he still in the waiting room?
He tweeted today “Don't count your chickens before they hatch. Damn, time to look elsewhere.”
The hardest rejection is the rejection that comes from the Universe, the girl leaving, your car breaking down, this compilation that can become the b-sides to the great album that we try to convince ourselves is our masterwork. But there are completist tendencies, the obsessive that writes the notes in our head, that reminds us of the ever present flip side. For some this obsessive is the loudest, presents the best arguments and creates the loops we find ourselves stuck in. Some of us can agree to disagree with this part of ourselves, others fight tooth and nail. For some time, Dana White was Ortiz's representation of this critic, but White has seemed to move on, make amends and repair the broken bridge best he could. There was in White a visible, tangible opponent for Ortiz, whom now gone, has turned into an idea that has been so deeply internalized that Ortiz has become his own worst enemy in an attempt to quell it. He has gone as far as playing dress up, playing the promoter, openly challenging White with his new leverage, Cyborg Santos. I cannot help but feel it is his desire to continue the real world battle that once motivated him, to return the enemy to some place outside himself. In his fight against the big joke, he seems to be utilizing reenactment.
Nietzches conclusion in regards to eternal recurrence seemed to imply that that should his life reoccur, it would reoccur the exact same way and it is in our best interests to find the value of our regrets, mistakes and suffering, by doing so we would find value in our journey. The struggle against the inevitability of time, the desire for recurrence, is Ortiz's Will to Power laid bare. In the interviews leading up to his fight with Rashad Evans, Ortiz proclaimed his desire to seek a title run again, to return to past form. We are watching cognitive dissonance play out before our eyes with every battle Ortiz wages, his story the hyper real manifestation of our own stories, the sum of ambition and reality, and it's existential conclusion.