It's not often athletes know the exact time and hour of their retirement. Instead, many walk away after injuries or a depreciation of skills keeps them from the game. Those reasons play into Tito Ortiz's retirement. Back injuries and three losses in his last three fights pushed him towards retirement, but Ortiz was lucky enough to know when his time was up.
He walked in with a pointy gladiator helmet, paying homage to the UFC's early days. He walked out with a shirt reading, "I helped build the sport that build me." In and out of the cage, he understood his role as the bridge between the UFC's early, banned-from-TV-days to the celebrity-filled, money-making corporation it is today.
In between, Ortiz and Forrest Griffin fought to a decision again. Griffin won, again. The fight showed why Ortiz is on his way out. Though he clipped Griffin at one point, Ortiz couldn't pull out the win.
Perhaps because there weren't many other options, or perhaps because the UFC brass was truly moved by their performance, Ortiz and Griffin won $75,000 Fight of the Night bonuses. As Ortiz starts retirement, the money is much nicer than any gold watch.
With the youth of the UFC, it's hard to know what Ortiz's legacy will be. It's not like comparing the effect Michael Jordan had on the NBA to what Bill Russell did for the league. MMA fans will have plenty of time to debate what Ortiz will mean to the sport in the long term.
For now, just enjoy a man walking out from the cage when he knew the time was right. Thanks for the memories, Tito.