Win or lose against Griffin, Tito Ortiz deserved the spotlight to end his mixed martial arts career. The 15,016 fans in attendance also wanted to pay homage even after Ortiz dropped a unanimous three-round decision Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
Griffin instead used the platform for a comedy routine that ruined what should have been a special moment for Ortiz, his family and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Griffin’s hijinks began almost as soon as the final horn blew. Thinking he lost the light-heavyweight bout and admittedly frustrated at his performance, Griffin re-enacted the "Run, Forrest, Run" scene from his 2009 lopsided defeat against Anderson Silva by quickly leaving the Octagon for the locker room amid a chorus of boos.
Griffin did return before the decision was announced. In retrospect, he should have kept running.
Rather than let UFC announcer Joe Rogan conduct his customary in-cage interview — which is specifically how Ortiz wanted to end his fighting days — Griffin grabbed a microphone and did the honors in irreverent fashion. Any chance for Ortiz to display emotion after ending his 15-year UFC tenure was dashed. The moment was ruined as Griffin asked questions with his arm around Ortiz’s shoulder.
Under different circumstances, Griffin would have drawn some of the same kind of chuckles solicited in the two books he has written. This was a textbook chapter on failed stand-up that left Ortiz furious.
Realizing he behaved like the monkey image on his custom T-shirt, Griffin did apologize after arriving (late) at the post-fight news conference.
"I just feel bad because I took Tito’s moment," Griffin said in a soft-spoken manner. "I was in a weird mindset at the time. I’m sorry about that."
The whole scene wouldn’t have happened had Ortiz (17-11-1) silenced Griffin (18-8) with a knockout. Ortiz lost the first two rounds before rallying in the third with a right hand that Griffin admitted "knocked him down legit."
"I was lost for a second," Griffin said.
Ortiz, though, was too gassed to capitalize. While he quickly took advantage with a takedown after Griffin rolled to his feet, Ortiz couldn’t keep control. Griffin eventually stood and ended the round trading blows with Ortiz.
In his heyday as the longest-reigning champion (3 1/2 years) in UFC history, Ortiz would have finished the job when given the chance. But with his 37-year-old body ravaged by injuries and the effects of 29 career UFC fights totaling five hours, Ortiz couldn’t muster the energy. All three judges gave Griffin a 29-28 decision.
Ortiz said Griffin’s punches weren’t doing much damage but his battered face told a different story. Griffin won largely because Ortiz was a half-step slow, unable to block his blows and deliver sufficient damage.
"When it was done, I had nothing left," Ortiz admitted. "I went out and fought with all my soul and heart."
Afterward, Ortiz donned a T-shirt made specifically for this swan song. The message on the back read, "I helped build the sport that built me."
It’s a shame Griffin didn’t get the message earlier.