Reflective Tito Ortiz Thankful for Chance to Continue Competing


Tito Ortiz

“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” is ready to continue his recent resurgence

Throughout Tito Ortiz‘s four-year, five fight winless streak, the former UFC light heavyweight champion was full of excuses. Every loss was placed on the shoulders of another injury. Some were understood and accepted, and others were a little harder to swallow.

Heading into UFC 132, his MMA obituary was already written. Dana White said another loss would be the end of his career inside the Octagon, the only place he’s ever competed save for a single fight. Few people believed that the man who hadn’t won since beating the broken shell of Ken Shamrock in October 2006 was going to beat Ryan Bader. There was no way it was just the injuries; Ortiz’s time had come and gone.

In one of the biggest surprises in recent years, Ortiz didn’t just beat Bader — he dominated the highly regarded young prospect.

“I stopped him in 1:56, something that Jonny “Bones” Jones didn’t do,” Ortiz reminded the assembled media masses on Thursday’s UFC 133 conference call. Where the Ortiz of old would have hammered home that point time and again, talked in the third person and praised himself to no end, that isn’t the Ortiz who is preparing to face Rashad Evans next weekend in Philadelphia.

After years of talking a better fight than the ones he could muster in the cage, Ortiz appears to have matured as he’s gotten healthier.

“When it comes to fight time, I go in, I compete and I try to get my hand raised. Over the last five years, it’s been a little problem with doing that,” said Ortiz. “I came up a little short, and I kept my nose to the grindstone. I got my surgeries done and I kept my nose to the grindstone. I never doubted myself and I just want to show people that with hard work and dedication you can do anything.”

It’s a modern remix of the old Ortiz refrain.

While the injuries used to be a readily available crutch to help carry the weight of his losses, the 36-year-old now uses them as a way to push himself to work harder and motivation to prove his detractors wrong.

“It’s nice to not have a back problem. It’s nice to get out of bed and going to want to train. Before I didn’t want to; I’d get out of bed and I’d feel like an old man. I’m hungry. I don’t feel like a 40-year-old man any more; I feel like a 30-year-old man whose in great shape.

“As far as the injuries, I haven’t had any problems at all since after my neck surgery,” added Ortiz later in the call. ” Everything has been really, really good. I might have hopped into the Hamill fight a little quick, but that’s the fighter in me; I want to compete. When people doubt me and say that I’m not able to do it because I had surgery, I want to prove them wrong.”

Having done just that less than a month ago at UFC 132, it’s hard to not get caught up in the melody of Ortiz’s redemption song. The brash “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” who used to wear t-shirts hurling insults at his opponents has aged into a mature, reflective man who doesn’t take anything for granted.

This could be Ortiz’s moment to say, “I told you so” and thumb his nose at the legions who doubted him through the rough patch in his career. Instead he is thankful, happy to have the opportunity to continue competing and show that he still belong in the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division, fourteen years after he first stepped into the cage.

“I’m just very, very thankful. I’m thankful God gave me the skills. I’m thankful to God giving the hands to Dr. William Smith. To be healthy is like no other. Knowing that I’m in great shape — knowing that I can make it through six, five-minute rounds with 30 seconds rest no problem — I’m in great shape. I’m in great wrestling shape and I’m really, really excited.

“I just look at it now that I proved a lot of people right, and I proved myself right, showing that I can compete against guys nowadays. People say it’s a different generation — I just say I reinvented myself to adapt to the generation and that’s what I’m doing.”