At this stage in his career, light-heavyweight legend Tito Ortiz doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. He’s been just about everywhere and has done just about everything and faced about everyone he could have at the highest level of the sport. So when he returns to fighting, it’s not because he has to, it’s because he wants to.
At the upcoming Combate Americas 51 in Hidalgo, Texas, on Saturday, Ortiz will return to the cage for the first time in a year to face Alberto El Patron in the evening’s main event. Speaking to MMAWeekly.com during rounds of press for the show, Ortiz discusses his desire to fight again, his bout with El Patron, and what will occupy his time in 2020 and beyond.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Tito, coming off your first round TKO win over Chuck Liddell in November of 2018, what made you decide to keep fighting and what made now the time to return?
Tito Ortiz: To that point, I really wasn’t sure that I was going to step back into the cage. I felt very satisfied. I know what I did for the camp to put in what I did and to make Chuck look like he did. I put in a good camp of 18 weeks, and I came to a crossroad in my life if do I still compete or I go along the business route, and I still have the hunger.
I called Randy Couture and asked him, “Randy, when you were 43, what made you come back and win a world title?” He said, “I didn’t feel like I was done. I felt like I had a lot more to do.” That was all I needed to hear. I got off the phone with Randy, and I felt like I had a lot more to do.
Combate America came to me with a meeting and things went really great and they said Alberto wanted to fight me. I said, “I’m in. Let’s do this.” It showed the respect that Combate Americas had for me; they signed me to an ambassadorship, they signed me for two fights, and gave me what I wanted and what I felt I deserved. I put in a camp like I’ve never put before in my career. I’m healthy. My mind’s right. My body’s right. It’s time to go war.
MMAWeekly.com: How does preparing for a fight in 2019 compare to when you first started fighting 20 years ago?
Tito Ortiz: When I first started out, I didn’t have an amateur career, I didn’t know how to train. I was just going by what my coaches told me to do and going by what I learned and just kind of hoping I made the right recipe. It worked. I won a world title and defended it five times.
Now I’m the old dog on the block. I’m the veteran. I’m the one knows Jiu-Jitsu. I’m the one who knows boxing, and kickboxing. My wrestling has always been strong. My cardio has always been strong. Having all of these things now I’m able to train to a different level. I’m not having to train to learn stuff. I’m training to sharpen my tools.
I think that’s the biggest positive reinforcement I can have in my camp now. I’m a professional. I know what I’m doing. I have no injuries. I’m doing things right. I’m doing things in quality, not in quantity. The better I do it the better I get.
MMAWeekly.com: Let’s talk about your upcoming bout with Alberto El Patron at Combate 51. What are your thoughts on facing him, and what do you feel you need to do in order to pick up the win?
Tito Ortiz: He’s a wrestler, so he’s going to want to close the gap as quick as possible, but that’s my strength. I want to keep it on my feet. I want to knock him out. I want to finish it quick in the first round and go on to my next fight. I want to take the least damage possible. His threats are takedowns and submissions on the ground, but at the level that I’ve competed against, maybe not.
I’m not looking past him. I’m not saying this is a gimme fight. I’m going to go in there and do what I need to do. I’ve been training hard for this fight. I’ve put in a long, long camp, and I’m prepared. I can’t look behind me and see one rock unturned. I’ve done everything I can possibly need to do to get my hand raised on December 7.
MMAWeekly.com: In the past it seemed you always had a chip on your shoulder or something to prove. Now it seems you are much more at peace and in a better place. How have things changed from then until now?
Tito Ortiz: I think it’s going out, fighting, and having fun, and just compete at a high level that I know I can do. Not having injuries has been a big factor in my career. From 2003 to 2014, 2015, I’ve always had injuries. Now I don’t have injuries. They’re gone. My surgeon has taken care of me. I’m the Six Million Dollar Man – I’ve been rebuilt, and I’m able to push myself in training like I never have before.
I’m happy. Life is good. Life is happy. I don’t have a person being negative on me or attacking me all the time. I have positive reinforcement around me at all times, and I’m very thankful for that. I think it’s allowed me to train the way I do, and having a great mindset doing it makes me a dangerous fighter.
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MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Tito. In closing, do you have an idea of what 2020 will be like for you, or will you just take one opportunity at a time and go from there?
Tito Ortiz: I have a roadmap now for the next three years. I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to continue the ambassadorship for Combate Americas. I have another fight after this fight.
A lot of businesses I’m doing, I’m just trying to keep infrastructure solid and lay the grounds the right way. It is about business, but I’ve got to make sure there is an end game to all of this, and business is that end game. I’ve got to make sure I look for my future; looking for the future is always the best thing to do; plan for the future, and don’t go by day by day.