Story by Anthony Springer, Jr.
Photo courtesy of Josh Hedges/Zuffa
With the most consecutive light heavyweight title defenses in the history of the UFC, the former champ’s place in the history books is solidified. In spite of his accomplishments, Ortiz (15-8-1) sounds a lot like he’s going into his first bout this Saturday at UFC 132.
“I’m ready to fight, put on a show and make this the biggest pay per view of the year,” Ortiz says. “I want my hand raised.”
At other times, the battle tested veteran in Ortiz is showing through. After career dominance in the light heavyweight division, the father and businessman is on a serious professional skid. In his last five outings, Ortiz is 0-4-1. You’d need to go back to October 2006 to find his last W.
But he weathers the storm, approaching the latest fight with the motivation of a fighter in his prime on a ten fight streak.
“[It’s] just the mindset,” he says about staying positive. “Everybody has to think positive, if you have negativity it’ll bring you down.”
After all he’s been through—the injuries, surgeries and losses—Ortiz would make a hell of a motivational speaker. “I smile at myself in the morning and say, ‘You’re a good man, a good business man and a good father, keep going and keep working hard.’ That’s what makes me want to be the best.”
Ortiz was the best. In 2000, he captured the UFC light heavyweight title in a decision win over Wanderlei Silva. He went on to defend the belt five times before losing to fellow legend Randy Couture. Even with the loss, Ortiz took his name and the UFC to new heights as arguably the sport’s first break out star. Ortiz understood where the game was going, leveraging his success into outside ventures. It was always about more than fighting—something younger fighters don’t always realize.
“It’s a business,” he explains. “A lot of these fighters think it’s just the fight game. It’s the fight game the first two years, after that it’s a business. You have to think about clothing companies, supplements, the things I’ve done. If you find yourself just fighting, you’ll be out after a couple losses. I understood two years into it.”
That understanding was punctuated by watching the rise of two other legendary crossover athletes.
“I saw Hulk Hogan and Muhammad Ali and I wanted to walk in one of their footsteps. If I can walk in one of their footsteps in MMA then I’ll have done my job as one of the greatest in history.”
Histories and legacies will be on the line Saturday when Ortiz steps into the Octagon against Ryan Bader. A loss equals almost certain retirement. A victory allows Ortiz to fight again another day and extend the legend of “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.” Being the showman and veteran he is, Ortiz knows what’s in front of him and says he’s prepared to get the job done.
“I think [Bader is] one of the toughest guys in the light heavyweight division. I have my hands full and I have to do my job to get my hand raised.”