Tito Ortiz pulled off the upset of the night at UFC 132 and staved off talk of retirement in the process when he dropped Ryan Bader and then submitted him.
Regardless of their feelings for the 36 year-old former champion, Ortiz’s fellow veterans must surely have felt some sense of relief to have seen definitive proof that the ‘old guard’ of the sport can still compete with the younger up and coming talents in the sport.
The truth is it’s been a rough patch for the sport’s ageing stars. For instance two of Ortiz’s biggest rivals over the years, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell have both retired within the last year.
Meanwhile at this weekend’s event Wanderlei Silva (who Ortiz also fought over a decade ago at UFC 25) was KO’d once again, prompting UFC president Dana White to suggest that perhaps it was now time for ‘The Axe Murderer’ to join them in hanging up his gloves.
They are far from alone. Other fighters who reigned in the UFC during Ortiz’s heyday such as Andrei Arlovski, Tim Slyvia and Matt Hughes are all teetering on the edge of retirement following defeats, while more PRIDE legends like Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop are doing likewise.
Nobody was in a worse spot going into this past weekend than Ortiz though. Five years without a win, going in as a heavy underdog against a high ranking contender and with Dana White vowing that Ortiz would be cut from the promotion if he lost, ‘The Huntington beach Bad Boy’s’ back couldn’t have been any further up against the wall.
Yet he prevailed, sending collective jaws around the globe dropping as finally a fallen star of the sport found a way to turn back the clock and remind everyone why he was once at the very top of the fighting food chain.
Other stars, including some of the names we’ve mentioned above, will face similar tests in the coming months, and the events of Saturday night may give them some much needed inspiration as they make the long walk to the cage to do battle.