by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ Tito Ortiz is gearing up for battle against Rashad Evans this weekend at UFC 73 in Sacramento, Calif. The former UFC light heavyweight champion spoke with MMAWeekly about the fight, his training, and his place in the UFC.

“Training has actually been really, really good. I got all my work in man. I’m really happy. I’m peaking at the right time. I’m strong. I’m in great shape. We’re doing five six-minute rounds. I’m in championship shape. I hope Rashad comes in the same way because if not we’re going to get a short fight, and if he does we’re going to get a very, very exciting fight, possibly the fight of the night. It’s been a really, really good camp. I’m focused. I’m 100% healthy, and 100% ready to step in and take it to Rashad,” Ortiz told MMAWeekly.

There’s a lot of hype behind this match up. The two had a verbal exchange at UFC 69 in Houston, Texas that ended with Ortiz shoving Evans. Both have had a lot to say about the other, and Ortiz believes he’s in Rashad’s head.

Tito stated, “He [Evans] was questioned if he was excited to fight Tito Ortiz, and he said, ‘I would be more excited to fight the old Tito Ortiz because he was a lot better. The Tito Ortiz of now is not as good. He’s not fighting as good as Tito Ortiz used to be long ago.’ It stuck in my mind, and I laughed. He’s intimidated. He’s scared and he knows that he’s going to get beat down. When the factor comes about and he’s on his back getting his face elbowed in, he’s going to realize that there’s nobody that has ground and pound like me.”

Rashad was an accomplished collegiate wrestler and has shown to posses good hands in MMA. People have questioned how Tito’s wrestling and striking matches up against Evans’. When asked, Ortiz responded, “With Rashad, if everything is going to come together, it’s going to come together. You know? He’s a speedy, fast wrestler. I’ve watched a lot of his takedowns and I’ve got to defend those well. When it comes to his striking, I don’t think he has a lot on his punches. He does have fast hands, but I strike also. I stood with Chuck Liddell and I gave him all he could handle. I was hitting him with a lot of good shots and I was firing on him.”

Ortiz continued, “I’m in great shape man. I feel really good. I feel very confident. Hopefully Rashad’s the same way because you’re going to see some late fireworks. You guys are going to get a late 4th of July. I’m going to come in like a barn burner. I’m going to try to put my force on him as much as possible. I just want to press the tempo, make it exciting and give the fans what they want to see, and make sure my hand’s raised at the end of the fight. It’s going to be really exciting. I can’t wait. I’m excited for this fight. I’m pumped. I’m sick of training. I want to fight. I’m like a wild dog right now. Please let go of the leash and let me go.”

Although predicting an exciting match, Tito doesn’t think it will go the distance. The 32-year-old fighter said, “I don’t think it does go the distance. If it does, Rashad trained his butt off. If it doesn’t go the distance, you know my hand’s going to be raised and whoever the referee’s going to be [he] is going to be ripping me off. I’m going to be non-stop man. I hope they aren’t looking for me to get tired because that is not going to happen at all. It’s time to go to work. It’s time to entertain. It’s time to stop Rashad and give him his first loss.”

Aside from the bout with Rashad Evans, Ortiz seems to be at constant odds with his employer, the UFC, and especially his former manager, now UFC President Dana White. With one fight remaining on his contract after the Rashad fight the war of words before negotiations has heated up. It started with the White and Ortiz Spike TV documentary on the boxing match that never happened and hasn’t let up since.

Asked if a win over Evans will solidify his future place in the UFC and give him the upper hand in negotiations, Ortiz said, “I know Dana [White], and I know the rest of the guys are just crossing their fingers hoping that Rashad does win. Either way, it really don’t matter to me man. Either or, I’m going to go in there very, very focused, and I’m going to get a win no matter what or whoever I make unhappy. All I care about is making my fans happy and getting the win. That’s all that matters to me.”

Ortiz added, “It seems like the UFC’s not trying to push me that much and it’s fine. It’s great. I just see what it’s coming down to. Negotiation tactics are going to start coming up, or actually they’ve already started in their mind, and it’s fine. I have my own publicist and I do my own publicity of my brand of Tito Ortiz. If the UFC’s not going to help promote me, I’ll get my publicist to promote myself.”

We’ve seen this before. Every time Tito’s contract nears it’s end or it’s time to renegotiate, the banter between Ortiz and White escalates which always raises the question, will he leave the UFC when his contract expires?

“It’s one of those things that it comes down to see how much the UFC is willing to deal with me. I know Dana has a hot head with me. I wish the Fertittas were running the company because I think it would be a lot easier for me, and they’d be a lot more fair towards me, I believe. Dana is trying to look out for his own interests and his company, which I understand.

“I’m doing the same thing for myself too and I’m not going to be able to fight for the next fifty years, or twenty years. I see a window of three or four years ahead of me and I want to take advantage of this time in front of me. And if I don’t stand up for and fight for what I believe in and think what I need to get paid than I’m really not going to step in the Octagon and compete on my level.

“It’s really frustrating because I look at a lot of boxers. I look at the [Oscar] De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather fight. Floyd made twenty-five million. De La Hoya made forty-eight million and the gross they did was one hundred and thirty million. Yeah, that’s an awesome amount of money, but look at the percentage the fighters are getting. They should start kicking back to the fighters, the ones who sell the tickets, the ones who sell the pay-per-view. Kick back and stop feeding the fighters crumbs and start feeding them a piece of the pie. I think the UFC is keeping the whole piece of the pie and feeding the crumbs to us,” commented Ortiz.

Criticism of Ortiz’ fighting ability is at an all-time high with the critics pointing out his only convincing wins over the last several years were over Ken Shamrock. Addressing them, Tito commented, “They really think Tito Ortiz is washed up. He’s not what he used to be. Everybody keeps talking and I’m here to prove them wrong. I haven’t gone anywhere. In the last nine years, there’re only two people that I’ve ever lost to, Randy Couture, the heavyweight world champion, and Chuck Liddell, the former light heavyweight world champion. No one else has beaten me at all, so the books tell the story.

“I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m 32 years old. I’m in great shape and I’m still a contender. I’m very dangerous. We’ll see on 7-7-07. I’m not going to look past that fight at all. I’ve just got to take it to Rashad. That’s what it comes down to. After that, then I’ll be able to write my own ticket.”