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Tito Ortiz reflects on legacy after ‘dream’ finale

Bellator 170 photos

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- This is how Tito Ortiz imagined going out.

Not like back in the summer of 2012, when he was on the wrong end of a highly controversial decision loss, then had Forrest Griffin steal his moment on the microphone.

This time, in his second and presumably final retirement, Ortiz, two days shy of his 42nd birthday, went out in his Southern California backyard, the main eventer, defeating Chael Sonnen on Saturday night at Bellator 170.

And whether you prefer to call him “The People’s Champion” or “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” Ortiz said the evening played out like a dream.

“Tonight was a dream, tonight was like a movie,” who finished his Bellator run at 3-1. “It didn’t even seem real.”

The win capped off a 20-year career which included a three-year run as UFC light heavyweight champion; a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame, and as consequential a second act as any unretired fighter has ever had, as he helped usher in Scott Coker’s vision for Bellator and the era of MMA free agency.

So it was only natural that Ortiz reflect on his start in the sport and his legacy afterward.

“I started in this as an amateur, that was with the other company I competed with, UFC,” Ortiz said. “As an amateur, I made no money, I fought for free. That was the beginning of my career. I fought for free. All my friends thought ‘you’re crazy.’ I said I want to compete, I want to see how good I can be in this sport. A year and a half later, I was the champion.

“From a kid being on the street with parents who at the time didn’t want to be parents, and the things I went through, I’ve been very lucky to be able to do what I’ve been through. It’s a dream.”

And this time, the final act went down almost exactly as he envisioned it.

“That’s the way a person’s career should end,” Ortiz said. “At the top of the world, how I feel right now, I can’t even talk right now because it’s like I want to accept it. I walked away at the right time, in the right place, and I was respected the right way. This was the way it should have been when I left the UFC. Everything in this world happens for a reason.”

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