There was a time during his career that Tito Ortiz was at the top of his division in the UFC. But it seems like those days are behind him. The Huntington Beach Bad Boy hasn’t held a UFC Title since 2003, he has dealt with a number of injuries, gone through two surgeries, and has lost three of his last four fights.
However after two surgeries in the last two years, Ortiz says that he feels better than he ever has and is looking to get back to the top of the light heavyweight division. While he is a long way away from that and will need to prove that he is not past him prime, he can take a step toward that goal in October. Ortiz will be getting back inside the cage for the first time since losing to Forrest Griffin last November. His opponent will be his protégé Matt Hamill and he is just one of the many obstacles that will be in the way for Ortiz en route to his goal of getting back his light heavyweight championship.
Tito Ortiz joined ESPN 710 in Los Angeles with Mason and Ireland to talk about how tough it will be for him to fight someone who knows him so well, how tough it is to fight someone who he likes and knows so well, and how he feels coming off surgery.
On how tough it will be for him to fight someone that knows him so well:
“I won’t know yet. I pretty much taught him everything he knows. So it’s not a factor of what I don’t know about him. It’s about everything I do know about him and how to beat him. I know I know how to beat him and I think I’m gonna have to pick him apart. He’s a great wrestler being of course a gold medalist in the Special Olympics. His handicap is deaf, but it doesn’t give him a handicap at all. I think he’s played that card a little too much in the UFC, but he’s a good guy, a really good guy. But he’s an enemy to me now that is competing for my future of being the light heavyweight champion of the world. I have to go through him to make my goals happen.”
On how much pride he takes in being one of the faces of the UFC:
“I’ve been holding this flag for the last 13 years. They say when the UFC was re-bought by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta and ran by Dana White, we were in the dark ages where we weren’t allowed on pay-per-view and we were only allowed in probably maybe five states in the United States and now they have worked so hard to get some of the biggest states in and I think it’s just an opportunity that I have used as a fighter but also as a businessman to exploit this mixed martial arts company as much as possible and get what I can out of it. A kid coming from the streets I didn’t really have an upbringing. I pretty much lived my life on my own. My parents were drug addicts and I came from nothing. I think the inspiration for other people in the United States knowing that you can achieve anything in this big country we live in.”
On how he would describe his health coming off two surgeries:
“I would describe my health right now I’d take myself back to seven years ago right before I fought Randy Couture and I was great. Able to put in the time I’m able to put in now is just a blessing in disguise. I think God has challenged me mentally and physically of what type of man I really am and going through these surgeries has challenged me to those points. Now that I no longer have the back pain or neck pain, if any listeners right now have back pain or neck pain because of a bulging disk, a herniated disk, or bone spurs are pressing on their spinal cord, I’ve done that over the last seven years. Now that I’ve finally got it fixed, the pain is gone. I no longer have to get up and take a vicodin to make my day go by, I no longer have to get up and ice myself before and after training, and I’m doing really, really good. I’m very thankful to the surgeon who worked on me out of Las Vegas, Dr William Smith and his assistant Valerie who has helped me out through the whole steps of the way with doing this right with physical therapy and so forth. I’m very, very thankful that I’m gonna be back in the cage competing again at my full potential. I know a lot of my fans haven’t seen that out of me in the past and I know a lot of fans get bummed because I have excuses after fights, but like I said if anyone has gone through back pain or neck pain triple it and try to train, kick box, wrestle, still fight, and get through the fights. I make sure that every one of the fights I do compete I give my heart and soul out there and I go for entertainment and that’s the value I give to people to go out and buy the pay-per-view.”
Listen to Tito Ortiz on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles here (Audio begins 11:30 into the podcast)