BY Jeff Cain
Tito Ortiz hasn’t competed in Mixed Martial Arts since February, but when he spoke with MMAWeekly’s Jeff Cain, Ortiz held no punches. The former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion addressed everything you could possibly want to know about his future in fighting, and much more. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was candid, and spoke exclusively to MMAWeekly.com.
MMAWeekly: First of all Tito, how have you been?
Tito Ortiz: Good man, really good. I’ve been training. You know getting back in shape. I’ve been training now for the last month just pretty much toning up man, getting my weight down to normal. I think I’ve gotten the heaviest I’ve gotten in my career. 227 I weighed in three weeks ago, so my weight’s back down to 217 where my normal weight is, and now I feel really good. I’m just getting to the basic stuff of wrestling again, boxing. It’s time to perform, and give the fans what they want to see, and that’s Tito Ortiz man.
MMAWeekly: You’ve had a pretty busy weekend. Friday you were at King of the Cage where your clothing company, Punishment Athletics, sponsored “Razor” Rob McCullough. How was that?
Tito: It was awesome man. Rob McCullough, Razor, is a really good friend of mine. I’ve known him since high school. We’ve been training together now for almost nine years man. We’ve been working a long time with each other. He made the cross over to doing MMA. Fighting in King of the Cage this last Friday, knocked the guy out in 45 seconds. He’s a really vicious striker starting to get good wrestling skills, and it just seems like he’s getting better and better. We’re reforming Team Punishment all over again, and we’re trying to bring some of the old guys back with Ricco, Rampage, myself, Tiki, Justin McCulley, possibly Dean Lister, and a few other guys. We’re just trying to build it to what it once was before of being a powerhouse team.
MMAWeekly: Nice. Saturday night you were in attendance for the Ultimate Fight Night there in Vegas in support of Ivan Salaverry. Let’s just talk about the fight first.
Tito: Yeah well I mean the fight itself Ivan just seemed like he didn’t pull the trigger man. He was waiting the whole time, waiting, waiting, waiting. I think he gave a little too much respect to Nathan Marquardt, and Nathan, don’t get me wrong. He’s a really tough fighter. He’s a good wrestler with great stand up skills. I mean I’ve watched the kid. I’ve watched a lot of his tapes before, and he’s a great fighter. It just seemed like Ivan just never pulled the trigger. He never pushed it on him, and Ivan’s a lot better fighter than what he showed on the show Saturday night.
MMAWeekly: I’d agree with that 100%.
Tito: Ivan’s a really tough, tough fighter. It’s just he needs the right guys pushing him at the right time to bring the best out of him it seems like. A couple of weeks before, when I was training with him, during training man he was picking up some really good stuff, and it was too bad that I wasn’t in his corner. I was supposed to be in his corner, and Dana White said if you want to fight for the UFC, you will not have Tito Ortiz in your corner. I don’t want Tito Ortiz to do anything with the UFC. Tito Ortiz will no longer fight in the UFC as long as I’m president. And you know what? I had a chance to have given Ivan a nice load of money to sponsor him for his fight, and Dana White pretty much said Punishment Athletics will not sponsor any UFC fighter. You know what? Between me and Dana White, there was some personal stuff. Actually there wasn’t any personal stuff. It was strictly business, but once he got into my business of Punishment Athletics, trying to stop us from doing that. It hindered my company, and now it’s personal. My back can only be pushed so far into a corner, and this is as far as I can go, so now it’s just taking a step forward, and I will no longer fight for the UFC. That’s what Dana says, and that’s pretty much the way I’m treated. It was a complete disrespect because people got to understand that I was the world champion before Zuffa even owned the company. I was in the UFC when it was at the lowest it possibly could be. When it got kicked off cable. It got kicked off pretty much everything, and I stuck into it, and you know I used my image and my charisma to make the company as far as it is til now. It seemed like once they got to the mainstream they dropped me like a bad habit. They pretty much just got rid of me. When I started asking for a little bit more money they said the hell with you. We made you, and we can break you, and that’s what Dana’s trying to do right now I guess. I don’t think it’s anybody in the company besides Dana, and to him it just seems like he’s a mob guy man. He takes feelings really hard. He’s a guy who’s really personal, and he really holds grudges really bad. You know my back can only be pushed against a corner so far until I start firing back, and now the time has come.
MMAWeekly: I know in the past Punishment Athletics logos have been on the octagon canvas correct?
MMAWeekly: Now they will not allow Ivan Salaverry to have it on his shorts?
Tito: Correct, and it was a big chunk of money I was going to give to Ivan, and it was actually more money than he was making just to show up for his fight. It’s too bad for Dana just to make it personal. I mean between me and him it’s fine, but when it comes to another fighter making money, it’s just really, really bad.
MMAWeekly: Do you feel betrayed by the UFC?
Tito: Completely. I mean they can say I completely betrayed them, but they’ve got to understand they’re a multimillion dollar company. I haven’t even made a million dollars from them yet, and I have a family. I have a little son that I have to take care of, and I want to make sure I give him everything I never had. It just seems like for him to do that, he’s taking away from my son. It ain’t hurting me because I’m going to make something no matter what, but it’s just taking away from my son, and it’s not right to do that to a person’s family. You know? Dana is no longer the Dana that I used to know. Now that he’s got the power, and he’s a superstar because he’s been on The Ultimate Fighter, and he’s not a president man. He’s a celebrity now, and I think the power has gone to his head.
MMAWeekly: You bring up The Ultimate Fighter. How do you feel, about these TUF fighters, do you think they’re getting stardom too quick, and not having to pay dues that say maybe you and others had to pay?
Tito: I think so completely. I mean these guys are being built on, you know they’re C fighters to me. Even B fighters. I don’t see them as really that good of fighters to me. All of a sudden they’re put on a pedestal, but don’t take nothing away from them. These kids are young, and there’s guys who’ll fight in the UFC for free it seems like. You know? They just want to be in the UFC, and that takes away from a lot of the bigger fighters who’ve been in here for a long time. You know this is our living. It’s not a hobby. This is our living. This is our career. This is what we do for a living to make money, and guys that come in and pretty much fight for free. I mean to fight for 1500 bucks. Are you kidding me? I mean what if they get hurt? I mean that’s not even going to take care of training let alone paying for food for the two months they’re training. These guys are just pretty much fighting for free, and I don’t even have to say anything myself. You can watch The Ultimate Fighter, and each and every one of those guys says I’ll do anything the UFC tells me to do. You know what it comes down to? These guys are just cronies it seems like man. They’re just programed by the UFC, but you know what? More power to them. I mean I wish nothing but success to them. It just seems like the fighters now aren’t the fighters that there once used to be. The Frank Shamrocks, the Ken Shamrocks, you know, the Royce Gracies, the Tito Ortiz’. You know? Guys like us that pretty much helped build this where it is now. Those guys are no longer in there. Pretty much the yes, yes people, and not the guys who stand for what they believe in.
MMAWeekly: So with the UFC being a past chapter in your life, what does the future hold? What do you have coming up?
Tito: Like I said, my back’s been pushed against the wall as far as possible, and it’s time for competition for Mixed Martial Arts. There’s not going to be one big show anymore, and I’m going to make another company. I’m going to make it no matter what. I can’t really say anything just yet. I mean within the next two weeks you guys will see it on my website, www.TitoOrtiz.com. I’ll put a big release, and there’s going to be another company made.
MMAWeekly: Another fight promotion?
Tito: Yep, another fight promotion. It’s going to be a big one. It’s going to be here in States, and Las Vegas is the first place we’re looking to make it happen. A while back when I first started Tito Ortiz’ Rumble on the Reservation, Dana White said don’t ever bring your company to Las Vegas, and I wasn’t going to because we were friends, but we are no longer friends, and it’s personal, and I will bring it there.
MMAWeekly: I don’t know how much of this you can talk about, or are willing to talk about, but can you say anything about the Vegas Channel?
Tito: Yeah the Vegas Channel. Actually it will be a new entertainment channel pretty much on everything that happens in Las Vegas; entertainment, fights, reality shows. You know? It’s going to be just like E channel, and I’m one of the executive producers. I’ll pretty much do the sports chapters of it, maybe some of the entertainment chapters also, so we’re just going to see what happens in the future. Our first release will be January 1st, 2006, and it’s going to be a huge company.
MMAWeekly: It looks like the future is bright for you in multiple directions right now.
Tito: Yeah. Like I said I was going to make it with the UFC, or without them man. And they pushed my back in the corner as far as possible. For Dana to make a statement saying I will never fight in the UFC, well the page has been turned, and I’m on to the next chapter in my life, and I’m going to make it happen.
MMAWeekly: So when can we expect to see you fighting again? You’re back training. Surely it’s for something.
Tito: Yeah. Well I mean like I said, the next couple of weeks I’ll find out 100% for sure. There’s a possibility of me fighting in Hawaii for a tune up fight. Not sure the opponent yet, but more than anything I think it’s just for the Hawaiian fans out there that want to see me live. They never get a chance to do that, and I’d love to go to Hawaii, and give them a chance to see myself in an octagon competing. That may be happening within the next month and a half or so.
MMAWeekly: Can you say in what promotion yet?
Tito: I’m not 100% sure. I can’t say the promotion, but it will be in Hawaii. You know it just comes down to seeing who’s going to have Tito Ortiz fight there.
MMAWeekly: So let’s talk about your clothing company, Punishment Athletics, and your website, www.PunishmentAthletics.com. You guys have some new stuff coming out?
Tito: Yes. Actually in 2006 it will be put in some retail stores. We’re going to start off here in Southern California first. Somewhere like Hot Topics…stuff like that, and then we’re just going to go across the United States and see if more and more companies will hold it. It just seemed like when I first started in 1999, I needed to build the quality of the clothing. We had a lot of problems with the flamed shorts. Of course a lot of guys who bought that, they understand the problems that I went through, and they stuck by me no matter what, and now that the quality of the clothing is where it’s at now, and some of the designs that we’ve got, you know we’re just pushing it to the next level. It’s not just going to be for Mixed Martial Arts. It’s for motorcycle riders, for the extreme sports. You know? For snow boarding, surfing, everything like that, so it seems like pushing it to the extreme sports is the next step, and not just sticking strictly to Mixed Martial Arts. You know everything that I’m going to wear, that I’m going to promote, I’m going to make sure that it’s top level stuff. As far as the T-shirts and everything, and there’s stuff that doesn’t shrink. The logos don’t fall off the shirts. I see a lot of companies that do have that problem.
MMAWeekly: You know there’s been a lot of talk. Anytime it’s dealing with Tito Ortiz there’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of talk, and I think a lot of people may have written you off, but basically you’re going to form a new company, you’re going to have a fight coming up, you’re involved with the Vegas Channel. Does that pretty much cover it?
Tito: Yeah that pretty much covers everything. Restarting Team Punishment again. I think that’s a huge thing to get my team to what it once before was.
MMAWeekly: Did you say that Rampage is apart of the new Team Punishment?
Tito: Yep. We’re working on that right now. Rampage is actually training with us full-time right now at Ultimate Training Center in Huntington Beach. So like I said, we just need to get some right stuff done, so no feelings are going to be hurt like there was last time. All the guys are training together, Ricco Rodriguez of course. We’re all working together to make the power house team we once had before.
MMAWeekly: Could you give an update on Ricco? What’s his status right now?
Tito: Actually Ricco’s just training right now. I think he should be getting ready for a fight in the next couple of weeks in a smaller show. I think because Ricco has a lot of timing to work on for his boxing, and his Jiu-Jitsu. He had a little time off after his knee injury, and he got surgery, so now he’s 100%.
MMAWeekly: Tito, do you want to take this opportunity to thank any of your sponsors?
Tito: Yeah for sure. I want to thank one of my biggest sponsors, Pikos Pikosos, one of the spices that I cook with all the time. I mean I wouldn’t be a cook the way I am. It’s something that I use all the time. I mean it’s some of the best stuff on the market right now. Of course the Vegas Channel, Victoria over at the Vegas Channel helping me and giving me the chance to be one of the executive producers, and use my mind you know to do some of the sport things that we want to do for the company itself, and Punishment Athletics, of course my company, and all the fans that have supported me this far. You know they stuck next to me no matter what, and they want to see me fight, and they’re going to see me fight in an octagon soon. I mean I want to thank all the guys that have supported me. Everybody on my website, TitoOrtiz.com, I want to thank all of the support. I’ve been going on there lately doing chat lines, and I think we had up to about, I don’t know, 35 people last night on there at once.
MMAWeekly: You mention that. Is that going to be a regular occurrence?
Tito: Yeah I’m going to start doing that again. I mean I think I’ve got to go back to the basics of being there for the fans that I was when I first started. When I first started Tito Ortiz what I really wanted to do was, you know, build an icon, and the fans are the ones that helped me build my name, so I mean I’ve got to be there for them. They’ve been there for me for so long. I think I’ll be doing that at least two to three times a week during the nights after my training. Hop on the computer and just say hello to them, ask the questions that they want to hear.
MMAWeekly: Thank you for the time, and good luck in all of your ventures.
Tito: Thank you very much, and to everybody out there, stay tuned.