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from www.ocregister.com – Huntington Beach’s Tito Ortiz will be the ninth member of the UFC Hall of Fame when he gets inducted at the UFC Fan Expo on July 7 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, the UFC officially confirmed on Thursday.
Ortiz will be a UFC Hall of Famer when he enters the octagon for the final fight of his career against Forrest Griffin at UFC 148 on July 7.
Article Tab: Tito Ortiz is shown in his 2006 fight in Anaheim against Forrest Griffin.
Ortiz, the longest reigning UFC light-heavyweight champion in the promotions history, joins Matt Hughes, MMA pioneer Charles ‘Mask’ Lewis, Mark Coleman, Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn as well as contemporaries Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture in the UFC Hall of Fame.
“It is a huge honor to be recognized as one of the greatest fighters of all time by the UFC,” Ortiz said. “To be inducted into the Hall of Fame is final proof that all the hard work and dedication, all the pain and sacrifices, were all worth it. To be able to walk to the Octagon one last time as an official UFC Hall of Fame level fighter is going to be humbling and awesome. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to end my career on such a high like this.
“I want to thank my family for all their love and support and my fans for sticking with me through the bad times when being a Tito Ortiz fan wasn’t the coolest thing to be. Finally, I want to thank Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White for giving me so many opportunities over the years and for securing the future of the sport I love and have dedicated my life to.”
Ortiz made his UFC debut at UFC 13 on May 30, 1997, smashing Wes Albritton in 31 seconds. Three years later, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” captured the UFC 205-pound strap with a victory over Wanderlei Silva. Ortiz’s reign as champion lasted three and a half years and included title defenses against Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic, Vladimir Matyushenko and Ken Shamrock.
Ortiz, 37, who is 16-10-1, was a brash and polarizing presence in the UFC with his bleached-blonde hair and unstoppable takedowns and ground-and-pound style. He was one of MMA’s pioneers and master of self promotion and promoting the sport of MMA. His outspoken personality led to a number of run-ins with UFC president Dana White.
“Everyone knows the story of me and Tito and all the things that went on between us,” White said. “A lot of it wasn’t fun at the time, but all that controversy and craziness is now part of the story of the UFC, and there’s no question that in his prime he was a huge star and one of the greats of his era.
“You can’t write the story of this era of mixed martial arts without Tito Ortiz, and that’s why he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He’s been in the UFC for 15years – and sticking around that long is an achievement in itself – and now he’s down to just 15minutes at UFC 148. Believe me, I know how proud and stubborn this guy is and I expect him to use everything he has left as a fighter to go out as a winner at UFC 148.”
UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said Ortiz was a huge part of building the UFC into the organization it is today.
“Tito is part of the fabric of our sport and of the history of our company,” Fertitta said. “He’s given his life to mixed martial arts and gave all of us some hugely memorable moments as both a fighter and a personality outside the Octagon. He was a lock to go into the UFC Hall of Fame at some point, and I’m happy we could make this happen now so he gets to enter the Octagon for the final time as a reigning Hall of Famer. I think this will be an emotional goodbye for Tito and one final special moment for his fans.”
Ortiz won a split decision over Griffin at UFC 59 in 2006′s fight of the year and he lost a split decision to Griffin in the rematch at UFC 106 in 2009. Ortiz said he plans to go out as a winner when he meets Griffin in their rubber match.
“My name will probably always be linked with guys like Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell and especially Ken Shamrock,” Ortiz said. “But the fights with Forrest were as good and competitive as any of them. When I first fought him, he was inexperienced and made a name for himself in doing so well against me. The next time we fought I was supposed to be over the hill, and I showed that I wasn’t finished by long shot.
“Now, I just want to prove I was the better fighter all along by winning the rubber match. I don’t want to go out on a sour note – I want everyone’s last image of me to be me in the center of the Octagon with my hand raised.”