Tito Ortiz has never been a stranger to making inflammatory comments, but his latest has really made people question the former UFC light heavyweight champion's will to compete and test himself.
Despite his advancing years, Ortiz is 41-years-old, 'The Huntington Beach Badboy" still competes against Bellator's top light-heavyweight tier. Coming off a first-round loss to the promotion's champion, Liam McGreary, back in September, Ortiz now just has one fight left on his contract. In an appearance on Sirius XM earlier this week, Ortiz claimed that he wanted to fight Royce Gracie in his mixed martial arts swan song.
"This is the last fight on my contract, it's the last fight that I want to compete," said Ortiz. "I'm 41 years old. I was supposed to be retired and done with this business at 40. Nineteen years I think is good enough for me. So let's go out with a bang. Let's go out with one of the biggest names in the world of mixed martial arts.
"Royce Gracie is here, he's competing. He just stopped Ken Shamrock super quick. I think that would be a fun fight. I got caught with a submission by a black belt, Liam McGeary. Royce Gracie's a black belt. Can he catch me? That's a question. We're both old pioneers of the sport, legends of the sport. I think the names would sell. Let's give the fans something exciting."
If "exciting" is one-sided bludgeoning, then fans should get exactly what they want if this bout happens. Gracie looked every bit of 49-years-old when he took on Ken Shamrock to end a nine-year hiatus with mixed martial arts for their trilogy fight back in February.
That night in Houston, Texas was one of the darkest days the mainstream sport had ever suffered as audible laughter rang around the Toyota Center when co-main event pairing Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000 went to work. One of the most tentative displays in the history of the sport, Dada 5000 collapsed from exhaustion in the final round of the bout, suffered a cardiac arrest and "absolutely almost died" according to filmmaker Billy Corben.
By the time Gracie and Shamrock took to the stage, they couldn't really have been able to show their co-main event up in terms of a non-event, but they made a solid attempt. Allegedly catching Shamrock in the family jewels with a knee, Gracie followed up the low shot to claim a TKO victory in round one over his nemeses. Although Shamrock called for the bout to be done over, nobody in the MMA universe really wanted to see the fight happen again.
Different Stages of 'Passed It'
Personally, I didn't feel the need to see Royce Gracie and Shamrock ever compete again, even before their trilogy bout in February. However, the idea of Gracie facing a guy eight years younger than him who just fought for a legitimate world title is harrowing.
Gracie's mixed martial arts heyday was nearly 25 years ago. Tito Ortiz was still contesting bouts for the UFC light heavyweight title less than 10 years ago.
There are different levels of 'passed it' in terms of these two athletes. As Ortiz's run of claiming two wins in his last ten UFC bouts proved, the former champion no longer cuts the mustard when it comes to being one of the top 205 lbs fighters in the world. He is passed it in the sense of contesting bouts at a championship level. Yet, Gracie seems passed the point of competing in any kind of legitimate mixed martial arts contest at this stage. The fact that a commission allowed him to fight at all back in February is startling in itself given the nine years of inactivity he had before his sudden change in tune.
Ortiz could still compete without people completely losing their minds for a few more years. There is nothing shocking about him wanting to fight again, it's simply the opponent he has called for that makes no sense.
Bellator Loves a Freakshow
The most worrying thing about Ortiz stating that he would like to face Gracie is that Bellator has allowed freak contests to happen quite frequently since Scott Coker took the reins of the promotion.
We need to look no further than the previously mentioned Bellator 149: Gracie vs Shamrock, to see that the promotion opts for contests that sell over bouts that actually apply to championships conversations when it comes to their main events. At Bellator 138: Kimbo vs Shamrock, people went as far as claiming that the whole headline contest was a fix, but again, when the viewing figures reached 2.3 million, Bellator could justify their choice to a certain extent.
Let's be honest, people would tune in to see Ortiz and Gracie trade leather, but whether a contest pitting the two legends against each other would help the legitimacy of the sport is an entirely different question. I think we all know the answer to it too.