The Huntington Beach Bad Boy, Tito Ortiz, is the kind of MMA fighter fans either love or hate. Some see him as being cocky and arrogant based upon his self-assured attitude and overly aggressive, no holds barred approach to fighting.
Fortunately for him, a majority of "the world's most aggressive sport's" followers tune in to watch his entertaining and exciting fights and no one can dispute the passion and ferocity he brings to the arena for each and every one of his battles.
There is one thing MMA fans can be sure of when it comes to Tito Ortiz: an explosive fight with plenty of pain inflicted by the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. Tito has spent most of his life fighting in one way or another.
Born in 1975 to an American mother and Mexican father, MMA's baddest spent many nights as a child in Santa Ana juvenile detention centers. At age 13 his mother and father separated and he found himself back in Huntington Beach running with a street gang refining his fighting skills on the mean streets.
Tito began his fighting career proper as a wrestler in his sophomore year at high school, going on to place 4th in the high school state championships as a senior. UFC 13, 1997, marked the beginning of his MMA career and hinted at the devastating fashion in which he would end subsequent fights - with a barrage of punches Tito handily stopped Wes Albittron in round one of his first UFC match-up.
Throughout his UFC career Tito has fought most of MMA's big names, in the process becoming one of the sports biggest stars in his own right, and one of the most controversial. The controversy, which started early and has continued ever since, began in 1997 with his second UFC fight and first meeting with Lion's Den contender, Guy Mezger.
After a solid start to round one, which saw Tito dominate with devastating elbows and ground-and-pound, Tito claimed that Guy had tapped out, a claim the referee disputed. Both fighters were stood up and asked to re-start. Tito, as instructed by his corner, shot in to finish the fight and was caught in a guillotine choke from which he could not escape.
Two-years-later they fought again at UFC 19 and this time Tito knocked out Guy in the first round. After the fight he put on a shirt, which proclaimed, "Gay Mezger is my bitch" and did the finger to Guy's corner and his coach Ken Shamrock, thus staring a long-running feud between himself and Ken. Since then Tito has fought, and beat, Ken three times.
The year Tito controversially provoked the Mezger corner was also the year that defined his future. In 1999 Tito fought Frank Shamrock, Ken's younger brother, for the UFC Middleweight title but lost in the fourth. However, this fight showed Tito he had what it took to go the distance with the world's best and in his next fight with Wanderlei Silva for the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Title he was victorious.
After losing this title in 2003 to arguably the toughest man in MMA history, Randy Couture, Tito has fought his way back into contention several times. His battles with current champion Chuck Liddell will go down in history as being some of the toughest the sport has ever seen.
He is now slated to fight the undefeated Rashad Evans at UFC 73, a fight he hopes will eventually lead to another shot at the Light Heavyweight crown. As a fighter Tito is as well rounded as they come. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he always enters the Octagon ripped and muscular and ready to give his all, which for his opponents means a characteristically explosive ground game and vicious strikes.
Tito is also well rounded as a person. As owner of clothing company, Punishment Athletics, former coach on Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter, and actor (He had a role in controversial - there is that word again - Turkish film Valley of the Wolves Iraq), along with the all-encompassing life of an MMA fighter along with its eight-hour training days, Tito is one busy man.
In the following interview he discusses where he has come from, where he is going and how he has become one of the most feared men in MMA today. Like his fights, the interview is far from boring.
[ Q ] You are one of the most feared MMA fighters of all time. At what point did you know you had the potential to become one of MMA's best?
I think it really came about when I fought Frank Shamrock and I lost in the fourth round to him. I had only been training for about a year-and-a-half up until that point in jiu jitsu, boxing and kickboxing. At that time I realized I had a chance to become champion.
[ Q ] So fighting Frank Shamrock was a turning point for you?
Yes for sure. Seeing as Frank was a World Champion himself, I really found it was the perfect test for me and it showed me that I could get a World Title of my own. That is when I tried to get a re-match with him, but he retired. Then I fought Wanderlei Silva for a vacant UFC Light Heavyweight World Title and won.
[ Q ] Has your fighting style evolved over the years or have you stuck with a specific style throughout?
Well I specifically ground-and-pound of course but also try to broaden my horizons by using the kickboxing and the jiu jitsu game. Really more than anything else is the ferocity I bring into the Octagon when I fight.
I'm just so intense when I fight and I think a lot of fans love that. The stand-up game I am still working on and I am still learning. I have only been in the game for ten years. I am constantly getting better.
[ Q ] So ground and pound is your main strength.
Yes the ground game is my solid game. Aspects of kickboxing are becoming second nature as well and I am really getting comfortable with this.
[ Q ] Is it fair to say you are the most controversial fighter in MMA? Why do you have this reputation and is it deserved?
Anything with Tito Ortiz's name on it will always involve a bit of controversy. I don't think it is deserved but I do think it is a normal standard for me. It is something that comes every time I fight. I try to make it as exciting as possible so that the fans will love to watch me fight.
[ Q ] You will be fighting Rashad Evans at UFC 73, July 7. How is your preparation going for this fight?
It is going very well. My body is feeling very healthy and my cardio and strength is good, as normal. My kickboxing and wrestling is really good. It is just one of those things where everything happens for a reason and this time it is for me to beat Rashad. He is currently undefeated at 16 and 0 and I will give him his first loss.
[ Q ] Will you do anything special to prepare for Rashad?
I really don't think I will do anything special. I will just do the things that I usually do. I am maybe doing a little more wrestling than usual and doing a lot more kickboxing and boxing of course. I think to defend the takedown is really one of my main goals in this whole fight.
I believe he is going to try to use his striking skills to look for the takedown. I think he is going to be a similar fighter to Randy Couture but he is not at the same level as Couture. He is a lot smaller guy and I am going to see if he can handle the tempo of the style that I will bring. I come with a lot of aggression, a lot of ferocity and we will see if he can handle it.
[ Q ] What strengths does Rashad have?
His style is boxing and wrestling. He has shown some kicks in his last couple of fights but that is fine. If he tries to kick me I will take him down and give him the old fashion ground-and-pound.
I am one of the guys who really capitalized on the ground-and-pound game and am very vicious on the ground. I let go of a lot of elbows and cause a lot of damage. I think the one that will win in this type of fight is the one who can cause the most damage.
[ Q ] You recently pulled out of a planned boxing bout against Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White because you say you were being asked to enter the risky match without a contract and for no money. Do you have any plans to fight Dana at any point?
I hope it is going to happen but I am not sure though. It is just that there was no bout agreement. Every fight I have fought in the UFC over the past ten years has always had a bout agreement. So there is nothing at this point to go forward on. It came down to making the right decision for myself.
[ Q ] So there is nothing in contract at this point?
No nothing in contract right now.
[ Q ] You are the head of sportswear company, Punishment Athletics. When did you begin this company and how far has it progressed since it was established?
I first started it in 1999 with $500 in my pocket and it came down to making a business out of this sum. Now it is a multi-million-dollar-company. I am really happy with the promotions I have gotten for it through my fighting and just my involvement in the UFC itself.
I have really worked on promoting it. Of course being on the mat in the UFC, this (the promotion) was part of the negotiations for my fights. I just try to make good, quality clothing for all my fans to wear and to support my fights. If things keep going well we will be coming out with some new clothing soon.
[ Q ] Speaking of clothing, after most of your fights you are known to wear T-shirts with messages, some directed at your opponents, some not. How did the T-shirt thing come about?
I couldn't really tell you exactly how it got started. It was just one of those things. I always try to get into my opponents mind. When I first started to wear the shirts it was to kind of heckle on them (my opponents).
I have always been a guy who will heckle on someone and with each one of those shirts I was trying to put out what I felt before the fight or after the fight. It goes from talking smack about my opponents to giving my support to the U.S. troops.
[ Q ] On The Ultimate Fighter you named you team "Team Punishment." Was this a marketing ploy on your part?
You know, it really came down to the guys who were training with me. It was to be Team Ortiz, but that is really all about me. And when it came down to the team I figured we were going to punish our opponents. So it was not about Ortiz it was about the punishment we were going to cause to the competitors that were competing against us. I figured it was the logical step in putting my team together and we showed it when it came to fight time.
[ Q ] What did you take from your experience on the Ultimate Fighter as far as improving your coaching skills?
I think it is something I have always been interested in. When I used to coach in high school and junior college it was one of those things I looked at as a learning process for me. When it came to training these guys (the Ultimate Fighter contestants) I really felt comfortable with them. I really put my heart into them I think and I got a lot out of it also.
[ Q ] Two of your fighters, Michael Bisping and Kendall Grove, did win their events in the final of Ultimate Fighter three. Are these guys the future of MMA?
Michael Bisping is a really tough competitor and a hard worker. For the fights themselves he really worked his butt off. Kendall Grove was another who was not that great of a fighter before he came to me but when it came down to fight-time and training he did all the right things. He did everything he needed to do to expose himself as a fighter I think. I came to see that and was really stoked to see his improvements. He took my training attitude and used it to better himself.
[ Q ] What separates the Michael Bisping's and Kendall Grove's from the average competitor? What gives them the ability to win?
I really think it is just hard work. What the guys put into it is what they are going to get out of it. These guys really believed in themselves I think.
[ Q ] So self-belief is a big factor for these guys also?
Yes that is what it really comes down to. Belief in themselves and a willingness to work harder each and every time - and they are getting the most out of it right now.
[ Q ] What do you like most about being a professional fighter?
There is not really one set thing. Being an inspiration to others lives. Just showing the up-and-coming fighters that anything can work for them if they put their mind to it and work toward achieving their goals.
|WHAT'S YOUR GOAL?|
[ Q ] What are some standout moments for you as an MMA fighter?
Fighting Ken Shamrock for the first time was one of the biggest things, just doing it the way I did it. That would rank as one of the highlights of my career so far. The first time I beat him a lot of people at the time thought he could not be defeated and I did it in devastating fashion.
[ Q ] Your feud with Ken Shamrock is well publicized. Is this somewhat scripted or do you two genuinely dislike one another? What exactly don't you like about Ken?
Well we did dislike one another, after we fell-out as athletes and in a personal realm. But when we fought it kind of squashed all that I think. After the third fight, we shook hands and we are nothing but acquaintances after that.
[ Q ] Would it be fair to say you two are on good terms.
Well not on good terms. Acquaintances.
[ Q ] Would you rank Ken Shamrock as being one of your toughest opponents? What is it about him that makes him one of the most dangerous fighters ever in the minds of many?
The first time I fought him I thought he was very dangerous. The last two times I really didn't think he was that dangerous. The dangerous stuff was his submissions but I never gave him a chance to expose those submissions.
[ Q ] Who has been your toughest opponent?
Chuck Liddell for sure.
[ Q ] What is it about Chuck Liddell that makes him such a great fighter?
I think his stand-up game and takedown defence.
[ Q ] Getting into the Octagon is not for the faint hearted. What do you respect most about your opponents?
I think it is just the way these guys fight in general. They all seem to have a great wrestling base, a great stand-up game and when they use these things they take it to the next level and become great fighters, especially in this game of ultimate fighting.
[ Q ] So they all need the same qualities to get to the highest level?
[ Q ] Is there one fighter you respect above all others?
I think Randy Couture is that person. The damage he has been doing for so long. Getting a World Title shot again and winning that World Title. Being 44-years-old and UFC Heavyweight World Champion is very impressive.
[ Q ] You have one fight left on your contract after your next bought with Rashad Evans. Is there anyone you would like to fight in your final match under UFC contract?
No that hasn't been arranged yet. To me whoever is in the top-5 in the world I would love to fight. I think that is the most important thing to me: to fight anyone who is in the top-5 in the world and no less than that.
[ Q ] So no preferences at this point?
Shogun (Mauricio Rua) or Dan Henderson. Any of those guys would be good. Of course the chance to fight Liddell again would be great. If someone loses to Liddell twice, usually they want another shot and I do want another shot. And I believe I will challenge him hard.
[ Q ] Do you have anything planned after your final UFC fight?
No plans just yet. Possibly sign with the UFC again. I feel my career is still at the top of the horizon. I want to fight for another five years. I think it really comes down to me continuing to entertain the fans that love to watch my fights. That is the most important thing for me.
[ Q ] Going into each fight do you have a specific approach or do you tailor your training according to your opponent?
I think it really does come down to who I'm fighting against. I have to make sure I look at their strengths and weaknesses and try to pick them apart. Try to manipulate those things so when I do fight I'm ready for those aspects.
[ Q ] So this approach would involve studying videotapes of your opponents?
Exactly, just doing my homework.
[ Q ] How do you overcome nervousness before a big fight?
Before a fight I think it is anxiety more than anything. I don't get nervous; I think it is anxiety. I throw up and cry. I am just a very emotional person so when I fight, when I am out there competing I am ready.
[ Q ] Is the process as important as the outcome to you?
For sure: I have to make sure I make the right training decisions and push myself as hard as I possibly can so I have no doubts in my mind when I fight. I don't question whether I have trained hard enough or put enough time in doing the right things. So when I step into the Octagon I am focused 100-percent.
[ Q ] So you enjoy the process? Is eight hours of training daily an enjoyable thing?
Yes, I like to see the full outcome of my training efforts. The training is just a part of my work. I get paid for it. That is where I make the money. I don't get paid to fight. I get paid to train.
[ Q ] How much of an emphasis do you place on cardio?
Cardio is my number one thing. If I don't get tired during a fight, then I don't have anything to worry about. Then comes wrestling, then boxing and finally weight training. But I think the number one thing is cardio so I never get tired.
[ Q ] What do you do for cardio in the off-season?
I just run three miles day. That is pretty much it.
[ Q ] And pre-contest you would double that amount?
[ Q ] What is your approach to weight training?
Medium weights and high endurance to build muscle-stamina: I do no less than 20 and no more than 40 reps with five-sets-per-exercise.
[ Q ] What exercises do you use?
I do a lot of leg work and a lot of pulling and pushing. My legs as my foundation are very important so I try to make sure these are strong like a tree trunk. Just try to make sure my whole body is strong.
[ Q ] What about upper body? A lot of MMA fighters use explosive lifts like the clean and jerk to develop power? Do you do these?
I don't do a lot of explosive stuff, just more endurance. I focus mainly on high reps so I am able to go for those 5-minute rounds. I think that is the most important thing.
[ Q ] What is your approach to nutrition?
I get to eat anything but fast foods and sodas. I have to stay away from greasy and fried foods.
[ Q ] Do you take any supplements?
No not at all. No supplements. I am just a big believer in a lot of raw foods. I eat a lot of vegetables including spinach - a lot of green stuff. Garlic also - just things that will keep my body healthy. I also eat about 2-to-3 times per day.
[ Q ] You are a pretty big guy. When preparing for a fight do you drop your calories drastically or just ease into it slowly?
I kind of ease into it slowly - wrestling in college taught me how to drop weight. Losing ten pounds is about a 4-hour process so it is really easy.
[ Q ] MMA's popularity has exploded. Why do you think this is? What is its attraction?
I think it just comes down to Spike TV. I think they have promoted the UFC to bring it to where it is today. If it weren't for Spike a lot of MMA fans wouldn't be educated as to what the UFC is today.
I think it is just an exciting sport and as more and more fans became attracted to it and it gets bigger. It has variety. Some guys go out and do kickboxing, some do jiu jitsu and others wrestle or lift weights. Then you have those who do all of it, the MMA fighters. Some do MMA just to train in it. They may not fight but they live through us as fighters.
[ Q ] From a fans perspective, what is the attraction do you think? Why do people like to watch it?
I think it is just so exciting to see two guys who compete against each other to see who the best all-round fighter is in the world. It is all of it together - not just boxing, wrestling or the jiu jitsu game.
When it first began you had guys just lying on the ground with just the jiu jitsu game. After a while they would kick back up and get back on their feet to begin again. It has evolved. I think combining all of the elements is what makes it is today.
[ Q ] How long do you plan on continuing as a fighter?
For another 3-to-5 years - it just depends on what happens. What really keeps me fighting is my fans. That really makes me want to do what I am doing.
[ Q ] You demonstrated some pretty good coaching skills on the Ultimate Fighter. Would you like to pursue more of this side of the sport when you retire?
Yes, possibly coaching, possible being a promoter. There are a lot of things I would like to do. It is just a matter of what the future holds and I am not sure just yet.
[ Q ] Speaking of coaching, there are some who feel that breaking their opponents down physically works best and there are others who take a more relaxed approach. What is your approach?
I place a big emphasis on motivation. I break them down but I will build them back up.
[ Q ] With sparring would you have a fighter face several guys in a certain time frame, an approach that has become popular?
Of course, I do that myself actually. Every minute-and-a-half there will be a new guy and that is a big part of the way I train.
[ Q ] How does this improve your skills base?
If you can get used to a new person every time, when you are actually fighting someone who is just as tired as you are you can explode yourself to the next step I think. That is what it comes down to.
[ Q ] What do you do for recovery?
It is just really hard work. The running and the lifting and just putting everything together is what gets you there. It takes about 30 to 40 seconds to recover to about 90 percent during training. Recovery time is the most important thing.
[ Q ] What about recovery outside of the gym?
I sleep anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per day. I am training for 8 to 10 hours and in between training I need to rest for the most part.
[ Q ] How much of your training time is specific skills work?
About half - It is a 50/50 deal. We do skills 3-days per week and we spar the other 3-days per week. We make sure we cover just a little bit of everything.
[ Q ] Do you do anything special for skills training?
No. It just comes down to the hard work I put into it. Special-wise I personally don't take breaks. Otherwise it is just always the same.
[ Q ] The mental aspects of training for a fight are not often discussed. What you do to prepare mentally? Does visualisation play a part in your fight preparation?
Visualization is huge for me. When I used to wrestle in college I learned that visualisation was an important step toward planning for how you were going to expose yourself, how you are going to react to things that are happening, what is going on in your fighting environment. I think that is the most important thing.
[ Q ] What message would you like to give to your fans and supporters?
I just would like to thank all the guys who have supported me for the last 10 years for being on my side and backing me up no matter what. I have to thank them.
I would just say keep watching me fight because you will see an aggressive, entertaining fight every time. That is why I do so great on pay-per-view. I have to thank my fans for buying my pay-per-views. If it wasn't for this and them buying my clothing on punishment.com I couldn't be where I am right now and couldn't get in the gym and train like I do.
[ Q ] Is there anyone in particular you would like to thank?
I have to thank the United States troops for supporting our country the way they do. I support them with every one of my fights. I just want to give them 100 percent of my support.
[ Q ] Thank you Tito. It has been good talking to one of MMA's legends.
Thank you David.