Ortiz opens up before UFC 106
Story by Brady Crytzer
It has been 18 months since Tito Ortiz has fought as a professional. Following a loss to future light heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida at UFC 84, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” prepares to make his return to the UFC Octagon in the main event of 106 on Saturday, November 21st in Las Vegas.
This return will be one of familiarity for Ortiz. The lights, the cage, and the fans are all part of his legacy as the longest reigning 205 lb. champion in UFC history. For someone as motivated by competition as Ortiz, eighteen months is simply too long.
“I think walking out, just feeling that energy. Its something that I haven’t felt in the last eighteen months. That and getting my hand raised, its something that I haven’t felt in the last two years. I’ve been working hard for six months and I’m in shape. I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally in shape for this fight.”
Ortiz stands out as the first superstar in the history of the UFC to take the sport from a competition to a spectacle. During his extensive title reign, no fighter has ever caused as much buzz, or controversy, as Tito Ortiz. During his twenty-two fight career, all but one
were under the shimmering lights of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Considering his legendary feuds with Ken Shamrock and Chuck Liddell, one is hard pressed to doubt the impact of “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.”
“Everything single one of my fights I come in as if it’s a show,” Ortiz said. “I’m a fighter. I’ve been in this game for twelve years. I won the world title after a year and a half of competition and held it for four consecutive years. I’ve had five consecutive title defenses, longer than any other light heavyweight’s ever done it.”
After twelve years in sport of mixed martial arts, Ortiz can now reflect back on his time as a brash, young upstart with an over-the-top ego and a skill set to match.
“When I got injured everything went downhill. I was training to survive for each fight. There are fights I should have took and fights I shouldn’t have took.”
Part of that relfection is aiding younger fighters in their career. From training to lifestyle, Ortiz has done it all. He has experienced ups…and he has experienced downs. But from all of that Ortiz has acquired life lessons that he is happy to share.
“For all the young fighters coming up…get educated,” Ortiz said. “Finish school. Education is a huge tool in this game. You need to be intelligent. You just can’t be the fighter that fights day to day. Get your diploma. Get your bachelor’s degree.”
“As a fighter you never know when you’re going to get injured and you need something to fall back on.”
His opponent on November 21st is a familiar one. After training for several weeks for a light heavyweight contest against UFC Hall of Famer Mark “The Hammer” Coleman, Ortiz was hit suddenly with the news that his aging opponent had to pull out due to injury.
In a rematch from 2006, Ortiz once again battles the original winner of The Ultimate Fighter Forrest Griffin. Though Ortiz won the first fight by a judges’ decision, he is taking nothing for granted against Griffin.
“I had to change a lot of things,” Ortiz said. “Thank God I was getting ready for a wrestler because now my wrestling skills are back to where they used to be. Now for Forrest I’m training with guys that are heavier. Guys in the 240’s. I think that’s a downfall for Forrest cutting all that weight. But, the biggest change has been with sparring partners. We’re sparring a lot more and not wrestling as much.”
Over the years Tito Ortiz has given fans and press alike his opinion on just about everything. Opponents, business, promotion, you name it, nothing has been off limits. Now, in his twenty-third professional bout, and possibly his last chance at a high profile main event, Ortiz speaks a new subject…his relationship with God.
“I’m the kind of person that looks in the mirror and its me, God, and that’s it,” Ortiz explained. “I’m not really a religious person but I believe that there is a higher life and we do do something after we die. I look for help sometimes. You gotta ask for help. When you’re training and injuries happen you wonder why. When you have losses you wonder why. I think God is just challenging me as a human.”