Sherk fails to regain UFC title
LAS VEGAS -- One strived to recapture a title he believed was wrongly taken away, the other hoped to leave behind a legacy he felt was inappropriately tarnished.
Instead, both Sean Sherk and Tito Ortiz left the octagon Saturday night with their faces bloodied and swollen and their pride also somewhat bruised.
Sherk was attempting to regain his Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight belt in a scheduled five-round bout in the sold-out MGM Grand, but instead ran into the left knee of B.J. Penn late the third. Penn then pounced on Sherk and landed a series of right fists to the head. The bell sounded during the barrage, but Sherk was too beaten to continue.
“I didn’t even hear the bell ring,” Sherk said.
Three fights earlier, Ortiz also hoped to leave the octagon with his arms raised in triumph, but instead lost a unanimous decision to Lyoto Machida. Before he departed, however, Ortiz insisted there was still plenty of fight left in him, whether with the UFC or another organization.
Ortiz, a Huntington Beach native and former light-heavyweight champion, had grown fed up with his relationship with UFC President Dana White, which reached a new level of hostility last week when White made some disparaging remarks during a conference call with reporters.
Ortiz, 33, said before the fight that he was not interested in re-signing with the organization that he had been part of the last 11 years. However, he left the door open a crack during a post-fight interview.
Sherk (35-3-1) was stripped of his title last year after testing positive for nandrolone, although he steadfastly denied using the anabolic steroid. Penn (14-4-1) defeated Joe Stevenson earlier this year to win the vacant title, forcing Sherk to go toe to toe with Penn to get it back.
That’s how they fought for the first three rounds, with Penn opening cuts under Sherk’s eyes before a left-right-left combination backed Sherk into the cage. That’s when Penn jumped into Sherk with a raised left knee, dropping him into a heap.
Ortiz (16-6-1) lost all three rounds on the judges’ scorecards. Machida, a clever southpaw from Brazil, dodged Ortiz’s blows from the start and avoided his patented take-down attempts. Then he made him pay with a variety of counterpunches and kicks.
Ortiz managed to pull Machida into a Muay Thai clinch early in the third round and landed some knee shots to the body, but Machida (13-0-0) followed with the biggest blow, a knee to Ortiz’s ribs that dropped the former champion to the canvas.
“He kind of knocked the wind out of me for a second,” Ortiz said.
Machida, 29, then pounced on Ortiz and landed a number of elbows and punches to the head, one opening a gash over Ortiz’s right eye. Machida then found himself in serious trouble with about 25 seconds remaining when Ortiz managed to lock his legs around Machida’s neck in a triangle chokehold, but Machida again proved too slick and wiggled free.
“I thought I had him there for a second,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz, who came into the fight wearing a black T-shirt that read, “I Did It My Way,” reiterated his plans to continue fighting for a living, took a final jab at White and ended with a parting goodbye.
“I gave 11 years to this octagon and it’s too bad that I’m leaving right now,” he said. “I’ll be going to greener pastures, I hope, for the future.”
However, when asked if that was, indeed, his final fight in the UFC, Ortiz didn’t completely close the door.
“I haven’t decided at all,” he said. “I’m going to go back home, take about two weeks off.”