I still don’t know why the UFC is taking us down Memory Lane, but I love it. Today’s selection: Tito Ortiz’s debut at UFC 13.
So. The UFC was struggling to survive, and sensing that the end was nigh, they introduced a couple of weight classes and started cranking out mini-tournaments for them. For UFC 13, there was a heavyweight tournament (anyone over 200 pounds) that featured the first Octagon appearance of some cat named Randy Couture. There was also a lightweight tournament (anyone under 200 pounds), that had Lions Den stalwart Guy Mezger, SHOOTO badass Enson Inoue, and wrestler Royce Alger.
As expected, Mezger made it to the finals after between judoka Christophe Leninger. But after beating Alger, Inoue couldn’t move on, so the dude who won the alternate bout stepped in.
Enter: our boy Tito.
It was immediately clear that Ortiz was tough and skilled, despite losing via a questionable stoppage due to a guillotine. Yet what was even more apparent was that Ortiz had that star quality. Hence, the rematch with Mezger, all the big fights, all the fanfare when he reigned as champ.
The biggest takeaway from that event wasn’t Couture winning his mini-tournament. Nor was it the superfight between Vitor Belfort and Tank Abbott (Belfort wrecked him).
No, the biggest takeaway was Tito.