If you mention the name Wes Albritton, it might not mean much to anyone outside of Mr. Albritton’s family, unless you associate it with his lone fight in mixed martial arts.
Albritton was the first fighter to ever face Tito Ortiz in the UFC. The two fought on May 30, 1997. Ortiz won the fight by TKO in only 31 seconds, and due to him wanting to maintain his amateur status in wrestling, he received no pay for the fight.
Now, as Ortiz gets ready to enter his 27th professional fight, 26 of which have taken place in the UFC, the one-time UFC light heavyweight champion is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel that is his career.
It was only a few months ago that Ortiz was battling to save his job in the UFC when he fought former Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader, but now the Huntington Beach native is looking realistically at his long career, the injuries that have mounted over the years, and his desire to spend my time with his three sons. Fighting may soon have to take a back seat.
“I’ve had that conversation with myself,” Ortiz told MMAWeekly Radio about possibly retiring. “I’ve been competing for almost 15 years. I compete for 15 years, I’m good. I think it’s time for me to walk away. Healthy or not, I’m 36 years old. I’ve had two back fusions; one on my lower back. I had my C-6 and my C-7 fused on my neck, ACL replacement, wrist surgery, and all the injuries I’ve gone through just in general, maybe it is time to leave.
“Maybe it is time to hang them up after two more fights. I finish out my contract, six fights, I’m done. I’ve made my money. I’ve built my brand Punishment Athletics, my gym Punishment Training Center, and my nutrition line I just released in July, Punishment Nutrition. I think it’s time to walk away and start a new chapter in my life.”
Ortiz readily admits with his oldest son Jacob about to turn 10 years of age that he knows he’s missed out on so much already because he’s been busy training and fighting along the way.
He’s also seen the toll fighting can take on the human body. With several major surgeries that he’s already had, Ortiz doesn’t want to risk more serious problems that could prevent him from enjoying life at a later age.
“At the end of the day, when we’ve got to go home to our families, is it worth these millions of dollars that we’re getting paid?” Ortiz questioned. “I’ve had back surgery, neck surgery. When I’m 50 years old, am I going to be able to throw a football with my kid? Am I going to be able to go on jogs with my kids? Am I going to be able to wrestle with my kids?
“That’s the type of questions that I go through.”
It’s hard to imagine the UFC without Tito Ortiz, or Tito Ortiz without fighting, but he’s looking towards a future where they won’t be one and the same. Ortiz doesn’t plan on leaving MMA altogether or not associating with the UFC when he stops fighting, but he will stop fighting.
Much like UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, who retired earlier this year, when Ortiz finally decides to call it a career, he wants it to be on his terms and by his choosing. He never wants to reach the level where fans and promoters are asking for him to step away because he just can’t compete anymore or his health has deteriorated to a point of exhaustion.
When Tito Ortiz retires, he wants it to be because it was time to say goodbye.
“Is it time for me to go? Possibly. I’m healthy, I’m good, I mean my back gives me a little bit of problems here and there, and my neck gives me problems a little bit here and there, and I just don’t want to have another back fusion or a neck fusion. That stuff wasn’t fun,” said Ortiz.
“When I make my decision, that will be my decision and that will be it. 15-year career only with the UFC since day one. No amateur career, no nothing. It’s been a business for me and I made sure this business makes the most sense for me when I walk away, I’m satisfied, and I’m walking away on my own terms. I’m not being told by the UFC ‘you can’t fight anymore; you’re done.’ I’m walking away on my own terms and I think that’s the best way to go.”