Originally Published at FightNews
Octagonside by Anthony Springer, Jr.
Photo courtesy of Donald Miralle/Zuffa
Tito Ortiz was all smiles following after UFC 132.
And “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” had plenty to smile about.
With his back to the wall and his job on the line, riding a winless-since-2006-streak into the Octagon, and facing a competitor that he crowned a top five in a stacked weight class, the former champion delivered.
Oh boy, did he deliver.
For a little over ninety seconds, Ortiz went toe-to-toe with Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader before dropping the younger, faster version of himself with a short right hand that landed on the button.
Ortiz followed as Bader crashed into the mat. He delivered some punches from the top position before locking up a fight ending guillotine choke. The hold won him the fight, saved his career—and that extra $75,000 for Submission of the Night probably felt pretty good too.
“Three and a half months ago, it was hard for me to get into my gym and train,” a reflective and happy Ortiz said at the post fight press conference. “When negativity gets you down, you have to find something to uplift you.”
The former light heavyweight champion found inspiration in his family, a handful of training partners and fans.
“They pushed me and each week it got better and better. I was doing it to prevail. I didn’t want to prove everybody wrong, I wanted to prove everybody right.”
In another life, Ortiz could be a motivational speaker. He’s a showman until the end. But one thing he did clarify is that he’s healthy now. Really healthy. In the past, Ortiz has claimed to be healthy going into a fight, only to reveal a lingering injury that hampered him come fight time.
“You gotta understand I’m healthy now. No more excuses. I’ve gone through two major surgeries that were my downfall over the last six years. I did what I had to do to get the win and I came up short five times in the world. I think Ryan didn’t respect me. For one time, I let my hands go. I have the hunger to be at the top again. I did what Jonny “Bones” couldn’t do—finish Bader in the first round. I’m healthy. Everything’s good.”
Even UFC President Dana White, who has frequently sparred with Ortiz verbally had nothing but praise. “Tonight was a night to win,” White said. “Everybody knew Tito had to win tonight to stay in the UFC. Not only did he win the fight, but he won the fight impressively. Dropping Bader and submitting him.”
The key, outside of successful surgeries and rehab, is “confidence,” according to Ortiz. “You’ve gotta have something to motivate you. When you have confidence behind you, you’re unstoppable.”
If Ortiz is indeed fully healthy, he may have another three or four years of fighting left in him. He points to his contemporaries, the recently retired Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell who were at the top of their respective games when they were his age. And on a night where another of his contemporaries, Wanderlei Silva, likely fought for the final time after suffering a vicious knockout loss, Ortiz credits a smart fighting style for career longevity.
“I took my career very smart. I don’t want to get punched in the face. You show a guy who wants to get punched in the face, and I’ll show you a stupid guy. I don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t’ want to have a conversation with people and I’m slurring my words and don’t know what I’m talking about. You hit me, I’m going to shoot on you.”
At least for tonight, the legend of Tito Ortiz continues. He does it for himself, his family, and the fans.
“I want to give the fans what they want to see: the biggest fights in the world.”