UFC 133: Tito Ortiz, “I Never Knew I Wanted to be an MMA Fighter”

August 2, 2011
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Tito Ortiz

These days, mixed martial arts is a profession. It’s a reasonable career path for former amateur wrestlers or other standout athletes that want to remain competitive beyond high school and college. For others its their first choice, training from day one to be fighters.

But not so long ago, it wasn’t considered a career path at all. There wasn’t a lot of money to be made, and at times, it wasn’t even regarded as a sport.

That’s the era that former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz comes from. A good wrestler in high school and beyond, Ortiz didn’t even really know much about MMA when he was considering his career choices.

So asking him when he knew he wanted to become a mixed martial artist wasn’t even on his radar.

“I never knew I wanted to be an MMA fighter. I wanted to be a high school teacher and a wrestling coach,” Ortiz answered when asked that very question on Thursday. “That was all I was going to do. Back in ’96, I think, I was training with Tank Abbott. I didn’t know about doing MMA. The UFC was so new back then.”

But a former opponent from his high school wrestling days ignited the initial spark.

“I watched a guy fight, named Jerry Bohlander, that I wrestled in high school. I crushed him on the mat. I wanted to give it a try,” he recalled.

“I started my first time in 1997. Tank got me a fight in (the UFC) and I fought Wes Albritton. I stopped him in it was 30 seconds, I think. And I fought Guy Mezger, who was ranked in the world. I was crushing him and they stopped it for bleeding. I went for a sloppy shot. He got me in a guillotine and I tapped and that was kind of the beginning of everything.”

That may not sound like much, but for Ortiz it was enough to turn the competitive spark inside him into a roaring fire. He went on to capture the UFC light heavyweight championship and defend it five times before eventually losing to UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture.

Looking back, Ortiz sees fighting for what it did for him. It filled a hole in his life.

“You gotta understand that I come from not much. I came from being on the street. My parents are drug addicts. Didn’t have much attention as a kid,” he stated frankly.

“It was one of those things when I got in a fight, all that attention that I loved, that I was denied from my parents, I was getting. So, it was kind of like a drug. I kind of got addicted to it.”

Yes, he lost the belt that he coveted to Couture, but that didn’t strip him of his desire to compete. In fact, it kept him going. Ortiz couldn’t walk away from MMA, or the UFC for that matter, any more than he could walk away from his own shadow.

Now, more than 14 years later, he’s back where it all began.

He stepped out of nowhere to defy the naysayers and beat the new kid on the block, Ryan Bader. He wasn’t supposed to win that fight, but he did, staving off the end of his career.

Renewed, he’ll step foot in the Octagon for the 25th time on Aug. 6 at UFC 133, where he will challenge Rashad Evans, and try to ride his Cinderella streak back to the pinnacle of the sport.

It’s an intoxicating journey, something he fully admits, though he had no idea it was a journey he ever wanted to undertake in the first place.

“This is something that I just kind of fell in love with doing.”

Got something to say? Weigh in with a thought of your own in the comments section below.

Ken Pishna is the managing editor of MMAWeekly.com.
@KenPishna on Twitter or e-mail Ken a question or comment.

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  • j-k-martin

    The Bader win was really surprising. I hope he has it in him to do it again.

  • Unador

    I guess he never knew nobody wants him to be an mma fighter either.

    this guy is a bully/coward/quiter
    not entertaining to watch
    not someone you want to root for
    not someone you look up to
    not someone you respect

    This guy is a coach, not a fighter.

    • bajafox

      That’s interesting:

      “this guy is a bully/coward/quiter”

      Bully and a coward? Are you dumb?

      “not entertaining to watch”

      His PPV numbers say otherwise

      “not someone you want to root for”

      Which makes you a hater, Tito has plenty of those

      “not someone you look up to”

      He contributes tons of time to the US military, pretty sure a lot of them look up to him

      “not someone you respect”

      He’s very well respected, both as a fighter and entrepeneur, plus his charities

      “This guy is a coach, not a fighter.”

      If you read the article, he pretty much said he always wanted to be a coach, not a fighter, so what’s your point?

      • Unador

        Er, let’s see
        Bullies are cowards. Tito had a chance to fight chuck when chuck was knockout easy. It was titos best and only chance to beat chuck and to regain some legitimacy.
        I mean franklin put him down with his non dominate hand with a borken dominant arm.
        Tito wasn’t hurt, Tito was scared.
        PPV numbers blah, He wansn’t on the card by himself, and his last fight was free? or the fight before? or both? lol certainly not even close to the main event.

        Not someone you wan to root for, He has poor sportsmanship. I dont like all the hugging, but the rub it in your face ha ha ha he likes to do is something small men do to feel better about themselves. There is no ‘greatness in him’ ‘great’ men don’t lower themselves to tito’s type of behavior.
        DIdn’t tito punch his ol lady in the face after he quit got fired from the ultimate fighter? Yeah, there’s someone to look up to. A real class act.
        Charitable donations aren’t charitable when done for public opinion, or tax deductions. The only true ‘charity’ is possesed by those who do with less so others can have a bit more WITHOUT RECOGNITION. It’s not charity if you recieve recognition for it. Charity is anonymous.
        Military? yeah, that’s like going to church. You know it’s all for show, but you can’t call them out on it without the feeble minded brain washed masses up in arms over a percieved slight.
        Tito does it for the attention.
        Same reason he wanted to be a teacher, a position of authority where he can dictate from and recieve the adoration of those who don’t know any better.
        Same trick with his time with the military, it nets him attention.
        Same trick with him as a coach, I saw him on the UF tv show, he’s a good coach, tho he likes to talk as if he god of all mma, and he likes to look and talk down to others. But he is better at being a coach than a fighter, or even a person.
        and it seems he genuinly wants to help and encourage others, but he has to recieve adoration and attention at the same time.

        My point is he is a better fighter than a coach, and should be a coach. And people tune it to see this guy get the phuck beat out of him, not the other way around like you imply.
        He will contribute more to the sport as a coach, and he will get more satisfaction as a coach. He isn’t going to get it from fighting. Bader is going to be a short lived high for him. Rashad is a smarter fighter than Tito, except for the Dragon fight.
        And Rashad has better hands, and equal/better wrestling.
        Tito has gotten only slightly better since their last meet, Rashad has gotten much better.
        The Bad Boy of MMA for sure.
        He’s bad.
        and he’s a boy.

        You have to ask yourself.. why do you identify with him?

        • bajafox

          That’s way too long and I’m on my lunch break. I’m sure you made some good points but your first post was downright dumb.

          You just sound like a typical Tito hater. When I ordered the last UFC fight, as a Tito fan, I thought I was going to watch his retirement fight, but now he’s in the main event just weeks after his last fight. You can’t question his heart, he had every right to turn this fight down. Say what you say, but I’m sure it’s just generic Tito hater hoopla

          • Unador

            Alright, I concede that my original post was too short and matter of fact.

            And I apologize for the closing of my second statement. Bad manners on my part, not very sportsman like either.

            I don’t hate Tito, but I don’t like him either. And I think he’s a bad example that kids and young adults do look up to. I think his negative behavior towards his opponents is immature and small.

    • Cptmats

      I agree Tito would make an incredible coach and prob produce a few world champs, however evrything else you said is just stupid !

      • Unador

        Tito would make a better coach then a fighter,
        He will not make an incredible coach.
        Also he will only be benificial for young fighters early in their career.
        Tito isn’t going to produce any champions,how can he? he’s a quiter. Champions aren’t quiters.
        And any champion that comes across Tito’s ‘would be’ coaching, would leave and recognize he needed to find better.

        as for everything else I say being stupid? well , that’s just because you disagree.
        What I think is stupid is to consider everything disagreeable stupid, label it s such, and fail to make a supportive statement for your beliefs.

        • MrAdidas

          Dude whats up with “he’s a quitter”? If he was a quitter he wouldnt be still fighting, especially after 4 or 5 LOSSES in a row. Then he takes a VERY TOUGH fight on 4-6 weeks short notice, after his very emotional Win over Bader. Yet Tito’s a quitter?

          I have no problem with you disliking or even hating Tito, thats your right – but I have a problem with you bashing a guy who clearly isnt a “quitter” yet you keep insisting that he is, whats your proof?

          As for Tito not fighting Chuck, who cares? Who knows why the fight didnt happen, Tito says it was Chuck & Chuck says it was Tito, so there you have it. All you have is speculation & ASSumptions.

          Correct me if I’m wrong but isnt Tito still fighting? didnt Chuck “quit/retire”? Also, IMO I think Tito would have beaten Chuck had they fought again, Chuck has taken way too many punches & kicks to the head & it shows, which is why he kept getting KTFO by EVERYONE in his last 4 or 5 fights. I think it’s a good thing Chuck didnt fight Tito, b/c had Tito won, what do you think Chuck would have done? He would have pulled a “Rampage” (after he lost his belt to Forrest).

          UGHHH how can you say an MMA fighter/Tito is a coward? Considering hes fougth some of the worlds toughest & most dangerous fighters on the planet, while you hide behind a computer monitor & talk shit/make an idiot of ur-self… all while “possibly” NEVER being in a street fight, let alone fight in the Octagon/UFC.
          Yet Tito’s the coward?!?

          Well keyboard tough guy, whats your MMA record? How many world class fighters have you fought, how many of them were wins & how many world titles did you accumulate over your “future Hall of Fame career”? YEAH thats what I thought… ZERO!!!