Believe it or not, there was a time long, long ago when Tito Ortiz was something other than a dopey, stuttering mass of injury excuses and self-congratulatory speeches — “The pre-Jenna Era,” as it’s sometimes called. Yes, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” preferred to let his fists, knees, and elbows do the talking for him back in the late nineties/early aughts, and we respected him so, so much more for it. Of course, he got off to a rough start in his first night as a professional fighter, when he kneed Guy Mezger into submission and *still* lost at UFC 13 on May 30th, 1997 — 17 years ago today.
To be fair, Ortiz’s actual MMA/UFC debut came just hours earlier, and ended in a 31-second TKO of Wes Albritton. But it was his main event showdown with Mezger, a Pancrase veteran and member of the Lion’s Den camp, that would go down as the first of many controversial moments in the future Hall of Famer’s career.
After besting Mezger on the feet in the early-going and brushing off his takedown attempts, Ortiz unleashed a vicious barrage of knees to Mezger’s noggin’, eliciting what many believed (ringside announcers Bruce Beck and Jeff Blatnick included) to be a tap from Mezger. Big John McCarthy would eventually intervene to check the cuts on Mezger’s head, where he would clarify his belief that Mezger was not tapping, but rather attempting to block Ortiz’s knees (a fact that remains disputed to this day). In any case, Big John would restart things on the feet and Mezger would secure a fight-ending guillotine shortly thereafter, sparking a decade-long rivalry between Ortiz and the Shamrock brothers.
After the jump: A collection of full fight videos from UFC 13, including the UFC/MMA debut of fellow HOFer Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort vs. Tank Abbott, and Enson Inoue vs. Royce Alger.