Former UFC fighter and California Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz announced his resignation from the Huntington Beach City Council following backlash over his resistance to the use of face masks.
“This job isn’t working for me,” Ortiz said during the first in-person City Council meeting of the year on Tuesday.
Ortiz, a former mixed martial arts fighter for Bellator and UFC, said public attacks on him and his family were the reasons he reassessed his decision to serve in public office.
“From day one, when I was sworn in, I was met with hostility and judgment,” Ortiz said, claiming that he was “the sole focus of character assassination each and every week, with multiple news stories leaking personal information all to slander and defame my name.”
The MMA star said he had been “under a notion that I was in a bipartisan position and that we all had the common goal that our city and our constituents could have. … To put it frankly, that’s not the case.”
Ortiz has been vocal about his opposition to wearing a mask or getting a coronavirus vaccine, sparking criticisms from his colleagues and members of the media, though he did not specifically cite those criticisms as the reason he left.
“As of recent, the attacks against me have moved into involving my family,” he continued.
“When my children’s safety becomes a matter, I’m a father and I’m going to protect my children,” he added, saying that the resignation was “effective immediately.”
The position was Ortiz’s first jab at politics since retiring from fighting in 2019. He used the recognition he garnered from the sport to run for office, and he was elected in November 2020 with the most votes in a City Council race in Huntington Beach’s history. He also campaigned with a Trump-style slogan: “Make Huntington Beach great again.”
“But his tenure was rocky from the start, as some residents and officials at City Hall expressed frustration over his refusal to wear a mask at city events and his vocal stand against vaccinations,” the Orange County Register reported.
“Ortiz was nearly stripped of his mayor pro tem title during a City Council meeting in February after he was criticized for refusing to wear a mask,” the Los Angeles Times added.
Similarly, his two sons were sent home from school last month after they refused to wear masks.
In his resignation, Ortiz apologized to his supporters.
“I’m sorry to let down many of my supportive constituents, and I pray they’ll understand,” he said.