Healthy and Reinvigorated Tito Ortiz Believes He’s Ready for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Tito Ortiz

Former champion meets Little Nog at UFC 140

One win in the last five years is sure better than no wins the last five.

A look at the database Win-Loss column for Tito Ortiz since the end of 2006 isn’t very encouraging – five losses, a draw and that one lone green-boxed W over Ryan Bader at UFC 132 – a win so important it saved his UFC career.

But Ortiz has long believed that the losses he’s been suffering since losing a light heavyweight title fight to Chuck Liddell at UFC 66 are the result of injuries and improper healing between fights.

True, Ortiz has been far less active since 2006 – with just one fight a year between 2007 and 2010. But he’ll fight three times in 2011, the third coming Saturday against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 140 in Toronto. And he said much of that is owed to the back surgeries that prolonged his career and gave him a chance to pull massive upsets against the likes of Bader.

“I think it really comes down to just being healthy after having the surgeries I did, and be able to battle through them and be able to train now like I used to train when I didn’t have the injuries,” Ortiz told the media last week on a conference call for UFC 140.

At nearly 37, Ortiz (16-9-1, 15-9-1 UFC), who will move out of a tie with Matt Hughes to hold the UFC record hold with 26 fights after Saturday, said nowadays, how fast he can come back from a fight is circumstantial.

“It just depends how long the fights (goes),” Ortiz said. “I fought Bader and it was only a minute six seconds. I recovered the next day. … It’s sometimes not too bad, and sometimes it takes a little bit. That’s just a part of fighting.”

Ortiz was supposed to fight Nogueira in March in Seattle, but an injury forced him off the card. Before making that fight, Dana White – Ortiz’s one-time friend and manager, then one-time nemesis, then one-time mostly friend again – said he gave strong consideration to cutting the former light heavyweight champion after his loss to Matt Hamill at UFC 121. But he gave him one more chance.

When Ortiz got that chance, once recovered from the concussion he suffered in training and got back in against Bader, he had as much on the line for his legacy than he ever had on the line when fighting to retain his 205-pound title years earlier. His knockdown and subsequent guillotine choke of Bader became an upset for the ages and allowed Ortiz to live to fight another day.

Ortiz said he knows the rigors of training, and after missing more than his fair share of time with injuries and surgeries, he believes he’s ready to see the preparation pay off again.

“I’ve been in this game for almost 15 years now,” Ortiz said “My body’s taken some damage, and I understand that. I’ve just got to make sure I put in the right work. Cardio-wise, strength, my timing for my boxing, my kickboxing, my jiujitsu defense, offense, wrestling. This is mixed martial arts – it’s everything you’ve got to work on and make sure we do everything the right way.

“I think I’ve done it for this fight – and I’m ready.”