Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tito Ortiz is the person Josh Koscheck wants to be

I recently watched season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter with coaches Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. Hitherto, I had thought Ortiz to be a giant asshole and, frankly, he sorta is a giant asshole, but he's a good coach and a surprisingly sensitive guy. In one of the early episodes, one of the fighters was crying and Ortiz was saying how it was OK to cry, that Ortiz cried himself, that everyone has feelings, that MMA is an emotional sport. Ortiz coached the fighters in TUF so well, not just contentiously in the sense of being there and working hard with them, but also in the sense of being there for them emotionally during what was a trying time for them, that it made me reevaluate him as a person.

Josh Koscheck was on season 12 of TUF as one of the coaches and it just reinforced the idea he was a shallow, thoughtless asshole. It was Adrienne who said that Josh Koscheck wants to be Tito Ortiz when he grows up.

It's true! Everything that Koscheck wants to be, Ortiz is already an intensification of that. So, during Countdown to UFC 124, Koscheck talked about how hard it was to grow up in Waynesburg, PA, because he was mixed race. Hey! Tito Ortiz is also mixed race, growing up in Huntington Beach, CA, where . . . his family was sometimes homeless and he was mixed up in gangs. So, kids picked on Josh for being mixed race but Ortiz was homeless and in in gangs. So, in the realms of hardluck backstories, Koscheck's is pretty lame compared to Ortiz.

Both of them are wrestlers who went into MMA. To give Koscheck his due, he was a really great college wrestler with an amazing record. Once they got into MMA, their careers took similar paths except . . . Ortiz was a champion for three and a half undefeated years. Oh, sure, nowadays, after all kinds of back surgeries, Ortiz is a shadow of the fighter he once was, but not too long ago, Ortiz was the best. Maybe Koscheck will beat GSP -- lightning could strike, the bookies odds are hovering around 4 to 1 against Koscheck -- but it is vanishingly unlikely that Koscheck will ever have the kind of success at MMA that Ortiz has had. (Koscheck is 33. His title shot Saturday is likely to be the only title shot he ever gets, he's sort of hit his peak and this is it for him. If he loses, the UFC welterweight division is stacked with great fighters. He'll go to the end of a very long line, it'll be four or more years before he has the chance to fight for the belt, again, and the odds that a 37 year old guy can fight at that level are small . . . at least, without chemical assistance.)

It is also difficult to compare their MMA careers outside the metric of Ortiz's multi-year championship winning streak. Ortiz did his best fighting between 1997 and 2005, when MMA was still in its infancy in the US. There were no MMA coaches, nothing but some guys in their local gyms trying to figure things out. Ortiz figured out not just the basic elements of US MMA -- submission wrestling plus kickboxing -- but he was one of the first guys to put it all together. He didn't hit and then wrestle, he used strikes to open up takedowns, he used takedown attempts to open up strikes, he flowed from one to the other as one complete unit. Nowadays, Koscheck does that, too, lots of guys in MMA do that, but Ortiz helped to invent that style of fighting. Koscheck fights like Ortiz, a style that Ortiz . . . kinna invented. Koscheck will leave no lasting impressions on MMA. He's a good fighter but when he's gone, we will forget him.

They're also guys who revel in playing the heel. Except one of them is a goddamn master of it and it's not Koscheck. Koscheck's idea of playing the heel is to make fun of Georges St-Pierre's sometimes halting English. WTF? Really? You're going to make fun of the guy who speaks, like, three times as many languages as you, really, Josh? Tito Ortiz, on the other hand, after defeating Guy Mezger put on a T-shirt, right there in the ring, that said, "Gay Mezger is my bitch". On another occasion, his shirt said, "I just fucked you in the ass". Needless to say, people freaked the hell right out about that. They did things like cut away from Tito so they wouldn't show the shirts, they talked endlessly about the deep and bitter rivalries created by Ortiz -- particularly with Ken Shamrock and the whole Lion's Den (Shamrock's MMA training camp). I don't know that Koscheck has managed to create even one real rivalry. I think he's tried with GSP, but he selected the wrong target, then, on so many different levels and it has failed utterly. Everyone knows, win or lose, GSP will get over Koscheck. He won't be frothing at the mouth and screaming obscenities, something Ortiz could get people to do with regularity.

There are also little things, too. Like Ortiz has mastered the look that people give when they want to fight. If you've ever been in a punk club, you'll see people with this certain . . . look. It is an advertizement that he wants to fight. He used it to freak out Ken Shamrock all the time. He'd also do that twitch towards guys like he was going to do something . . . but he wouldn't. Koscheck has nothing like that. He tries to play it off like he's Mr. Cool but it comes off like Mr. Douchebag -- Koscheck has the exact same smirk as George W. Bush.

Even their fight winning signature moves . . . Koscheck just runs around and flexes and roars in a predictable way. Ortiz would turn to the losing corner and with loose hipped cocky pantomime, draw his six-shooters and gun 'em down. Then he'd mime digging a grave and pulling the other person into it. Ortiz projected a suave toughness and cockiness that was just universes ahead of anything Koscheck can do. The hell of it is, Ortiz would have the crowd on his side. It's been a while since Koscheck had that.

And then there's their women. It's not particularly surprising when an elite athlete has an arm candy girlfriend, but Ortiz has twins with Jenna Jameson. Now, I'm not what you'd call porn savvy but even I know who she is. Josh Koscheck's girlfriend was Holly Madison. You'll probably have to use Google on that one, but she looses the dignity war with a porn star, shall we say.

So, they're both mixed race guys with troubled backgrounds, except one of them is a lot more troubled and wins in the hardluck case. One of them is a giant of MMA who bestrode the earth like a colossus and is a big part of the sport's current popularity. One of them is has achieved a rare mastery of being the trash talking heel. One of them is dating the woman who brought pornography into the mainstream, the other dates someone who is even more socially irrelevant than that. I can only conclude that Ortiz is what Koscheck wants to be . . . and is failing to be.

Hell, they're even mixed race guys who dye their hair blond. Except Tito did it first.

(AND, here's the hell of it, Ortiz is also one of those "give back to the community" guys who has worked with at risk youth in Huntington Beach to keep them away from gangs. Ortiz has this whole other life that Koscheck can't begin to touch.)

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