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Marines Knockout Tito Ortiz

Miramar, California- There are only two weeks left until the Marine Corps birthday, and the air station in Miramar doesn’t have a guest of honor for its ball. Ultimate Fighting Championship brawler Tito Ortiz was slated to fill that chair at the beginning of the month, but canceled on Thursday after air station officials asked him to un-invite his girlfriend and date for the event, porn star Jenna Jameson.

“We invited him, and he accepted. Then, it became aware to us that his guest was going to be his girlfriend. Then, we had to make a decision, and the decision made was that she was not an individual or guest that we really felt was appropriate for the Marine Corps ball,” said Maj. Jason Johnston, a spokesman at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

Miramar officials hoped that Ortiz might still attend the ball and simply leave Jenna at home, but “his point was, hey, that’s his girlfriend, they’re very much in love, and he’s going to have to decline the offer,” Johnston said. “And we very much understand.”

Johnston acknowledged that asking Ortiz to attend without his girlfriend could be seen as a bit rude. But he said Miramar officials weighed that against preserving the spirit and heritage of the ball.

“Un-inviting a guest is something you don’t do without serious considerations,” Johnston said. “We did think about how it would be rude to un-invite him, and many other opinions were considered in this matter. Ultimately, it was the [commanding officer’s] decision.”

Miramar’s decision and Ortiz’s withdrawal were announced two days after a short article ran on www.marinecorpstimes.com, which quoted Miramar spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Katheryn Putnam’s confirmation that the station expected both Ortiz and Jameson at the sold-out ball.

That news didn’t go over well with at least one senior enlisted Marine. Master Gunnery Sgt. Larry Kuzniak, assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., said he couldn’t sleep that night after reading the news on the Internet. He said that at his sergeant major’s meeting the next morning, he made a point to relay the news to his unit’s senior enlisted Marines, who he said heard it with dropped jaws, and expressed his concerns about the commandant’s health in the event he’d already heard the news, too.

“These guys in Miramar are making a mockery of what is supposed to be tradition,” Kuzniak said. “It should be about the Marine Corps, not about the movie stars and the athletes. If you’re not going to observe tradition, you might as well just let it die. Next thing you know, Barbra Streisand will be out there.”

On Kuzniak’s list of animals, minerals and vegetables that would have been more appropriate as guests than the lover and the fighter Miramar invited: Any one of the 13 living Marines who have received the Navy Cross since Sept. 11, 2001. “Or maybe this is that year that we take that lance corporal from the convoy that’s out there every day,” he said.

Kuzniak said it is regretful that the Corps even got itself in this position, but that Miramar’s decision to backpedal on its invitation is the right move.

“That’s probably the first right thing they’ve done is to be embarrassed by this,” he said. “It’s just totally embarrassing.”

Miramar didn’t know Ortiz’s girlfriend was porn industry giant and sex-made millionaire Jenna Jameson when it asked him to be its guest of honor “a couple weeks ago,” Johnston said. He describes a command that confirmed a guest speaker one week, only to discover that a porn star was upon them the next.

“When you invite someone, you don’t go into it thinking ‘who is the individual and who might they bring as a guest,’ ” Johnston said.

He said that asking Jameson not to come “is not a black-list decision by the Marine Corps.”

The welcome mat goes back out on the porch as soon as the ball is over, Johnston said, and Miramar is looking forward to having both Ortiz and Jameson visit the station before the end of the year.

With Miramar slated to host the UFC for a fight night in an aircraft hangar that will be open to station personnel only and televised live to Marine Corps Recruiting Command’s target demographic on Spike TV a month after the ball, tapping one of the championship’s fighters as guest of honor wasn’t as random a choice as it might seem, Johnston said.

The decision to invite Ortiz in the first place was a nod to the relationship West Coast installations and recruiters have developed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship over the past few years, a relationship that has grown especially close in the last six months, according to UFC representative Michael Sakin.

Although the UFC’s burgeoning relationship with the Corps remains unofficial, decision-makers at Recruiting Command are keeping tabs on what the Corps and the UFC are doing to support each other at the installation and recruiting station level with an eye toward possibly formalizing a national sponsorship in the future.

Recruiting Command assistant chief of staff for advertising, Lt. Col. Mike Zeliff, said the Corps’ relationship with the UFC is an example of innovation from the bottom up.

“Not all the greatest solutions come from Quantico,” he said. “This is an instance where a successful local program may continue to expand.”

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