Little did the fans watching UFC 13 on May 30, 1997 know they were witnessing the beginning of a legendary career.
Ortiz went on to collect three additional victories, which earned him the opportunity for championship gold by facing Wanderlei Silva, who had twice as many fights as Ortiz did at the time.
Five grueling rounds later at UFC 25: Ultimate Japan 3 in April 2000, Ortiz became the UFC light heavyweight champion, and a star was born.
The outspoken and confident Ortiz went on to defeat Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic and Vladimir Matyushenko. Three of those bouts ended in the opening round, courtesy of Ortiz’ vicious ground-and-pound.
A five-fight win streak led him to UFC 40, where he faced Ken Shamrock in one of Ortiz’ most highly-anticipated fights of the year.
Three years prior, Ortiz defeated Shamrock’s teammate Guy Mezger at UFC 19 by technical knockout in the first round. Shamrock wasn’t pleased with Ortiz’ victory or post-fight celebration, and the rivalry was born.
However, on November 22 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on an card that featured Hall of Famers Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell, Shamrock had little to offer Ortiz in terms of punishment for the actions the elder Shamrock felt were inappropriate.
For 15 minutes, Ortiz battered his foe with heavy strikes both standing and on the mat. It was Ortiz who dished out the punishment, and after three rounds of being on the receiving end of a one-sided beatdown, Shamrock’s corner called a stop to the action.
Ortiz’ career was in full swing, and he was the most polarizing athlete in the sport by 2002.
Next came the unexpected with back-to-back losses to Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, but Ortiz pulled himself together like champions do and won five consecutive fights.
He defeated former champions Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin, Patrick Cote and Ken Shamrock two additional times by first-round technical knockout.
Whether they loved him or hated him due to his pre-fight hype, fans loved to see Ortiz compete, and “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” delivered once he stepped inside the Octagon.
After a career full of positives filled with championship fights, Ortiz fell on hard times and didn’t collect another victory for five fights.
He lost to bitter rival Chuck Liddell, fought to a draw with Rashad Evans and lost on the judge’s scorecards to Forrest Griffin and Lyoto Machida.
With the exception of his loss to Liddell, Ortiz’ losses to the three aforementioned men were close contests.
However, it was a loss at UFC 121 to Matt Hamill that saw Ortiz at his worst. Sure, he was still “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” but he appeared to have lost his swagger and needed a positive team behind him.
A variety of severe injuries and surgeries to his knees, back and neck forced Ortiz to compete at far less than 100 percent for the later stages in his c