INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Tito Ortiz capped off a nearly 20-year professional fighting career in style Saturday.
Just two days shy of his 42nd birthday, Ortiz upset Chael Sonnen in the opening round of their light heavyweight bout, submitting the outspoken veteran with a rear-naked choke at the 2:03 mark. The 205-pound bout headlined Bellator 170 inside The Forum.
Ortiz (19-12-1) had promised Saturday would be the final fight of his career, and the quick victory did not change his mind. Before exiting the cage, Ortiz had his son, Jacob, symbolically place his gloves in the center of it. The gesture is similar to when amateur wrestlers leave their shoes on the mat after their final match.
“Tonight, January 21, 2017, I’m going to let my son lay these gloves down,” Ortiz said. “This is the last time I’ll be fighting.”
For Sonnen (28-15-1), it was a rough way to start what he has dubbed a “Legends A– Whipping Tour” in Bellator MMA.
The 39-year-old was fighting for the first time since 2013, due to a two-year drug suspension and retirement. A three-time title challenger in the UFC, Sonnen made a surprise signing with Bellator last year after serving his suspension.
Sonnen surrendered an early takedown to Ortiz but countered with a guillotine. He used the submission attempt to sweep Ortiz and move into top position.
Moments later, however, Sonnen aggressively attempted another guillotine, which resulted in him forfeiting top position and moving back to the bottom. Ortiz calmly moved into Sonnen’s half-guard and cleared his head from the choke, which he later said was never tight.
Once Ortiz was on top, the fight was all his. He landed several elbows, before moving into full mount. Sonnen, who is undersized at light heavyweight, quickly gave up his back to avoid more shots and eventually tapped to the rear-naked.
“I knew I’d get the choke because I knew he wouldn’t want to get pounded by me,” said Ortiz, who has gone 3-1 in the Bellator cage. “He’s not super strong, so I knew I could find those positions. He never had me [in trouble]. Thumbs up, [the choke] was never tight.”
Ortiz, from Huntington Beach, California, is a former UFC light heavyweight champion. He began his professional career in 1997. He retired previously in 2012, after losing six of his last seven fights in the UFC, but returned to competition in 2014.
The win avenges a loss Ortiz suffered to Sonnen in 1998, when the two met on the collegiate wrestling mats. Sonnen pinned Ortiz in the match, which took place on Ortiz’s birthday.