Opinion: An Old Dog Bites

By Jason Probst Jul 5, 2011
Tito Ortiz isn't done yet. | Photo: Stephen Albanese/Tailstar.com

Tito Ortiz’s win over Ryan Bader at UFC 132 on Saturday was not quite George Foreman knocking out Michael Moorer at 45 years old, but, like Foreman’s win, it will certainly inspire older fighters, as well as fans that root for them.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion’s first-round guillotine choke submission was a massive performance by him, further cementing his promotional mojo for the short term. And it raises the complex question of what the UFC will do with its aging roster of ex-champions who were once top promotional attractions but are now in the twilight of their careers, no longer able to perform at the level they once did.

As the UFC’s core cadre of stars from the 2000-05 era ages, the recurring question revolves around what the promotion should do with aging talent on the downside. It’s one thing to let a fighter go after he starts losing more than he wins but another thing entirely when it’s a huge name and an ex-champion that a rival promotion could swoop in and sign.

This has been the case, in varying degrees, for former stars such as Ortiz and Randy Couture, who have flirted with fights and promotions outside the UFC in recent years, only to ultimately be kept in the fold for various reasons. Ex-champions Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin are also veering toward this zone, with increasingly tough competition and accrued mileage working against them. Yet Ortiz’s win shows how much a win can do for former titleholders, who -- even in the most polarizing cases, such as Ortiz -- become public favorites for which to root.

One thing making the decision easier is a woefully different promotional climate. The UFC no longer has once-relevant upstarts like Affliction, the International Fight League and Strikeforce with which to contend; there are no worries about whether or not they will sign released talent. That may make previously hard decisions much easier in the coming months and years, which makes a win like Ortiz’s that much more meaningful.

Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.

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