Sherdog Remembers: Bitter Rivals

By Staff Jul 8, 2011
Few mixed martial arts rivalries have burned hotter than the one that existed between former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz and UFC hall of famer Ken Shamrock.

They met for the first time at UFC 40 in 2002, as Ortiz battered Shamrock standing and on the ground for three one-sided rounds. Between rounds three and four, Shamrock’s corner asked for the fight to be stopped. Some four years later, on the heels of their coaching stint on Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Ortiz and Shamrock met again in the UFC 61 “Bitter Rivals” co-headliner at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Then-heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia successfully defended his title against Andrei Arlovski in a forgettable main event, but it was the Ortiz-Shamrock rematch that moved the needle of public interest, resulting in a $3.3 million gate and 775,000 pay-per-view buys.

Ortiz barely broke a sweat, as he lifted the shopworn pioneer off his feet and planted him on his back. A series of unanswered elbows from inside Shamrock’s guard led referee Herb Dean to stop the fight just 78 seconds after it started. Shamrock protested immediately, even as replays showed one elbow knocking him unconscious and another appearing to rouse him. Still, the result left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, and the UFC quickly capitalized, organizing a rematch for October on Spike TV. Shamrock fared no better, as Ortiz grounded the hall of famer and finished him with punches in 2:23. Ortiz did not win another fight for nearly five years. Shamrock has never again competed in the UFC.

UFC 61 -- which took place on this day five years ago -- was noteworthy on a number of other fronts: the promotional debut of Cheick Kongo, former heavyweight champion Frank Mir’s first victory since a motorcycle accident nearly ended his career and a bloody encounter between Joe Stevenson and Yves Edwards. In addition, UFC President Dana White famously teased a showdown between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva, inviting the two all-time greats into the cage for a staredown. However, the fight between the UFC and Pride Fighting Championships titleholders did not materialize as White and millions of fans had hoped. Liddell and Silva did not meet until December 2007, a year and a half later, when both had surrendered their titles and lost some of their luster.
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