by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
As he eases in to his next
venture of color commentating, Tito Ortiz is still on the mend.
Three months ago, he had back
surgery to repair bulging discs in his back. According to the former UFC light
heavyweight champ, the doctor who performed the procedure said Ortiz’s
abdominal muscles were three times thicker than anyone he’d operated on before.
“All the ab
work that I’ve done that got me through the last five years is what made that,”
This might come as a shock, but
Ortiz often came into fights less than healthy.
“Yeah, I lied a few times,
saying I was 100 percent during fights, but I can’t let out my weaknesses at
all,” he said.
The lies eventually came back
to bite him, in the form of Lyoto Machida. The undefeated Brazilian’s quickness
contrasted sharply with Ortiz in their UFC 84 fight. It was the final wake up
call for Ortiz to seek help.
The only punches he will throw
at the commentator’s table at Affliction’s "Day of Reckoning" will be
verbal ones, a job he feels he’s well suited to from years of cultivating an
image as one of the UFC’s most outspoken characters.
“This is tailor made for me,”
he said. “I think on Saturday night, I should do a pretty good job. I’m doing
my homework on the fighters, of course, and getting ready to really announce as
best I possibly can. The commentating role, it doesn’t look that hard of a job,
so I’m excited.”
He has yet to step onto the
mats since the surgery. A July return is a definite possibility (a phrase
that has tended to follow him in the last two years of his roller coaster with
the UFC), though he wants a warm-up fight before he takes on a top-ranked
opponent. When he does commit to a return, one name in particular stands
“As a warm up fight – this
is a warm-up fight – since I’m getting off a huge back surgery and so
forth: Frank Shamrock. Frank Shamrock, step up. Yeah, he’s a little smaller
than me, but he’s said a lot of things, he’s beat me the last time he was a
smaller man. Step up or shut up. I mean, that’s the
way it is.”
Ortiz evaded questions about
his future with the UFC, as is the norm since his very public battle with UFC president
Dana White boiled over last year. He took great pleasure, though, in the recent
shake-ups in the light heavyweight division.
“I look at a guy like Rashad
Evans,” he said.
“Who I thought I beat, but we got a draw, I gave him his blemish on his record.
I beat their former champ Forrest Griffin, and I was maybe 60 percent at the
most? So me at 100 percent, I’d crush both those guys.
“No disrespect towards Rashad,
he’s an awesome champion, he’s paid his way. Thanks for knocking out Chuck
Liddell ’cause he raised my stock. Which is great, and I still see myself at
the top of the game.”
In the end, Ortiz sees time on
his side, whether he spends the rest of his career in a cage or a ring.
“I’m only 33-years-old,” he
stressed. “I’m not 45, I’m not 40, like Liddell and Couture, so I’m still going
to be a factor, no matter what, in the light heavyweight division.”
Right now, the only commitment
he wants is his new role on Saturday. When – and not if – he comes
back, he wants to be the fighter who was champion.
“I look at it as being 100 percent
again in three months, being the ‘old Tito Ortiz’ of new.”
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