Some may forget, but the UFC light heavyweight division was once Tito Ortiz's domain. Starting at the the turn of the century and stretching until late-2002, Ortiz, now a UFC Hall of Famer, ripped off a string off one-sided title victories, besting everyone from Wanderlei Silva to Ken Shamrock en route to setting the benchmark of five straight light heavyweight title defenses that stood for over a decade.
Of course, Ortiz has company now. Current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones made sure of that went he blasted through Chael Sonnen last weekend at UFC 159 to match Ortiz's once distant mark at the young age of 25.
But in his heyday, the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" feared no man. So does he think he'd get the better of Jones if the two met up in their primes?
"I do, of course," Ortiz said with a chuckle on The MMA Hour. "I think I'd dominate him.
"Takedowns, of course. Clinch, striking. I don't know. Big heart. I think Jon Jones is good though, man. If anybody's going to beat my record, I would like him to beat it. I don't think there's anybody in this sport right now with the technique and skills that he has. I think he's very mellow mannered, he's a soft spoken guy, but his fighting shows how good he really is. I have nothing but respect for the guy, man."
Ortiz has been gracious as Jones approaches history, yet when asked if he hopes Jones falls short of breaking his record, Ortiz can't help but admit, "of course" he does. After all, it's only natural to want to stay at the top.
But if it does happen, and Jones does defend his UFC light heavyweight title a record sixth straight times, Ortiz wouldn't be surprised.
"If I'm under a person who holds the record, I think Jon Jones is the man [it should] be," Ortiz said. "He's very classy. He's respectful, soft spoken, and he's a true champ.
"I really don't see anybody to beat him. I don't think anybody can really get close to him. His mindset is perfect. I think it's how a champion should be. As long as no personal stuff happens to him, I don't think he'll have much problem with anybody, just because of his wrestling. Wrestling has always been a dominating force in UFC."
Throughout his road to the top, Jones made easy work of a laundry list of former champions. His latest conquest, however, was anything but.
A longtime middleweight, Sonnen allowed his promotional muscle to become the catalyst for his sudden title shot. And although the event generated significant buzz, Jones lopsided victory at UFC 159 ultimately proved what many already knew to be true.
"That was the easiest fight for Jonny ‘Bones' Jones," said Ortiz." I like Chael, he's a friend of mine. But he's a 185-pounder. He's not a 205-pounder. The weight classes are totally separated there. If Chael walks in at 205, maybe 204, Jonny ‘Bones' Jones is 6-foot-5, 225 [pounds] -- this is like a wrestling match, that's why they had weight classes in wrestling, because you can't wrestle someone bigger than you. Chael showed that. He couldn't stop the takedown."
Comparisons will always be made between Ortiz's and Jones' run of dominance, because let's face it, that's just what comes with the territory when any hallowed sports mark is snapped. Ortiz, though, isn't sure if that's fair.
"I think it's two separate eras," Ortiz said looking back.
"The time and the eras are so totally separated. A lot of guys who I fought, they beat guys who were No. 1 contenders, and that's why I fought them. But like I said, I always fought the people they put in front of me. When I fought (Vladimir) Matyushenko, it was on a three-week notice and I still took the fight."
Still, retired at the age of 38-year-old and nursing a myriad of lingering injuries, Ortiz, like many fighters of his generation, can't help but notice how the world around him has changed. Fights are different now. Global broadcast deals and seven-figure paydays have reshaped the landscape of big-time MMA.
Similar to many the sport's pioneers, Ortiz's talents had long eroded by the time the sea change took place. He looks back fondly on his time as the world's best, though part of him still wishes the windfall would've come sooner.
"Of course," Ortiz admitted in closing. "But you know, like you said, I laid the infrastructure and the groundwork for what the fighters have today. I stood my ground on a lot of occasions, but at the same time I'm a fighter who was in a great era at the time. I fought outside the box and now it's paying off, and I'm very, very thankful because of it."