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MMA LEGEND TITO ORTIZ EXCLUSIVE REAL COMBAT MEDIA INTERVIEW WHICH HE DISCUSSES BELLATOR, UFC, DANA WHITE, KEN SHAMROCK, HIS NECK SURGERY, CYBORG & HIS FUTURE IN MMA
By Zach Heim, RCM MMA Correspondent
*Photo Credit: Zach Heim
A couple of days ago I got the honor to talk with a true Legend of Mixed Martial Arts. The Huntington Beach Bad Boy Tito Ortiz is a UFC Hall of Famer with a record of 16-11 and 1 draw. He was at one time the longest raining light-heavy weight champion of all time. He is the found and president of Team Punishment and currently on the Bellator roster as he recovers from a neck surgery.
RCM: I first asked Tito how his recovery from neck surgery was coming along.
Tito:My neck is healed and I got the green light from my doctor to start training again. My 7th week is this week. I feel great, I started sparing about a week ago. So I’m 4 sparing sessions in and already doing five 5 minute rounds. My wrestling is where I want it to be, strength and cardio are where I want them to be. I am trying not to make the mistake of getting into shape during camp, I was able to do that when I was younger. Now I want to be in shape before camp begins. I am about 221 so I am in really good shape right now. So I am just waiting on Bellator right now. I’m just waiting on an opponent and a date. This time I am getting in fight shape before camp starts. I’m not going to get in shape during camp. I made that mistake last time and that how I got injured. I got caught in a bad position and went head first into the mat because of my bad position. So this time I am making sure not to make that mistake.
RCM: I am sure you are keeping your eye on the Bellator light-heavy weight tournament. I was not a fan of King Mo’s comments in the post-fight press conference about the fan so I am hoping Rampage knocks him out, wins the title and then defends against you.
Tito: That would be awesome. I know Mo is a great wrestler but I also know he has a suspect chin he can’t take a great shot. If Rampage could get ahold of him with a great shot, but can Rampage defend the take down. So I think that is what it comes down to. I know Rampage is a true light-heavy weight while Mo is a middle weight. 190 pounder or 185 pounder. But you know he is at the top tier of light-heavy weight. His last match showed he knows how to control the fight and get the win. Rampage showed that he is going out to entertain the people and pick people off one at a time. I seen a lot of mistakes in what Rampage did and I will take advantage of them. He looks fast on his feet, his head movement was great I was happy that he won.
RCM: How has the media attention on your personal life affected your training or has it?
Tito: Now it’s a total different world. My X and I are no longer together. Life here is 100% better, it’s calm. Media doesn’t really distract me at all. It’s just personal stuff and I take it as is. It could be worse. It could be that nobody was talking about me at all. At the end of the day it about my kids. It’s my job to make sure they have a great upbringing, a home, and great surroundings. At the end of the day that’s what it boils down to being the best father I can be for them. My father made a lot of mistakes, he wasn’t ready to take responsibility as being a father and I had to pretty much raise myself. I don’t want my kids to have to go through that. I want to make sure I am there, I make mistakes every human does. I’m under a microscope and when the media attacks me on certain things I learn to brush it off. Mistakes happen it’s a life lesson. My X hasn’t been around in 10 months, hasn’t seen her kids in 10 months. I am just trying to be a strong father and be there for them no matter what. I wake up at 6:30 every morning. Get them up, get them dressed, feed them, and then take them to school. I come home take a nap and get up and go to the gym. Pick them up from school feed them, get them showered, teeth brushed, and get them to bed. I do the same thing every day. All the media attention and everything that is negative I try to brush off my shoulder and just work super hard on making sure my kids have a great upbringing.
RCM: Are you famous to your kids? I know they win the old my daddy can beat your daddy up debate at school, but are you just daddy?
Tito:Well my oldest son Jacob who is 11 will be 12 in June I think it’s like a 50/50. It wasn’t before at all when I was just dad. I think it’s still that way but he is a really smart kid. He wrestles and says he wants to fight. I just say “now Jacob what’s our deal?”He says I know dad I have to get my master’s degree first. I just say ok then we have our deal, what are you going to get your masters in? Business Marketing is what he tells me. He is a pretty smart kid at 11 years old to think of that. My twins, I think I am just dad to them. They go with me to the gym and watch me train. My son Jesse asked me one day “dad why does everybody like you?” I just laughed, he doesn’t see me as Tito Ortiz the fighter he sees me as dad. I told him you just have to be respectful and be nice to other people. People will like you for that. He took it to heart, when my friend are over and he sees someone he doesn’t know he will walk over to them and shake their hand and say “hi I’m Jesse” and look them in the eyes. The kid is 4 years old, he will be 5 in a couple of weeks. I think I am doing right for these kids, at the end of the day I want to be just dad. I want to be dad no matter what, at the end of the day they have to listen to me and do what I say do the right things.
RCM: What if one of them would come up and ask you to retire? How would you handle that?
Tito: I had that the first time I retired with my son Jacob. After my injuries were all done and healed, I sat him down and sold him I wanted to compete again. I had my last lost and I thought I won and I want to go out winning. He said dad I respect that and I know you can get another win. Just train hard and I will support you. Now this is an 11 year old I’m talking to. Having that conversation with him I told him I would train my butt off like no other, and I have been. He supports me so that’s good. My other two are young yet they are just turning 5 so they don’t really understand yet. They haven’t seen me compete yet I haven’t showed them any fights yet. I guess the next fight this year we will see if they can be in the audience or watch the fight on TV after it’s over.
RCM: I ask that because you are coming off a neck injury which is a serious injury for anybody.
Tito: Well, I have a great surgeon, that’s what it is. Dr. William Smith out of Las Vegas. He is a great surgeon, and I have a strong mind. I believe in myself, I believe I can do it. I don’t ever doubt myself. Anybody who ever has any type of injury, it’s what your mind believes you can do. If you say you can’t do it then you won’t, if you say you can do it and keep working and trying to meet each goal at each rehab appointment it makes it happen. I think I have done that. I had knee surgery in 2003 then back surgery, two back surgeries, and another knee surgery. I don’t doubt myself. There was a time when I had back surgery and I laid in bed and felt sorry for myself. At about the three month mark I got out of bed and stopped feeling sorry for myself. I told myself I was going to get out of bed and start going for walks. My back started to feel better so I started doing ab workouts , all of a sudden I was jogging, then I was wrestling, then before you know it I was training for another fight. Same thing with my neck surgery, about six months later I bounced back. ACL I bounced back three months later, my doctor was amazed. Once again it comes down to the power of your mind. Our minds are so strong you have to believe in it and make it happen.
RCM: I know you’re not the biggest Dana White fan, and what changed me on Dana was the 20th anniversary show. I didn’t like how he brought back maybe the biggest joke ever in the UFC in One Glove and kept guys like Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, and yourself out of the show. Guys that I think helped carry the company when it needed it and who helped make it bigger than anyone ever thought it could get. I just thought that was a huge slap in the face to not only you guys but the fans also. So what are your opinions on Dana White?
Tito:What it really comes down to is the fans. Fighters are fighters we are nothing more than a commodity to the UFC. To the fans we are legends, we are the superstars, the champions. We are the guys that go in there and compete, to entertain the fans who spend the money on pay-per views. What it really comes down to is control. Dana is a control guy, he controls everything. Boxing just too kind of correlate everything together. Boxing brings the boxers up as superstars, as champions, as the best thing ever to happen. UFC is UFC it’s a brand, they don’t want fighters to become bigger than the brand its self. They learned that from me, and they continue to do it. Lorenzo Fertita always treated me well, I killed myself for that company. I went through many surgeries fought with many injuries, still competed and made them a lot of money. At the end of the day it comes down to money, it’s a business. UFC is a billion dollar business because of guys like myself, like Randy Couture, and like Ken Shamrock, all of the other guys to compete. It is a slap in the face but at the same time we can’t speak to loudly because when we down we get spoken down on and held down. I was the worst light-heavy weight to ever grace the octagon, I always tried to bring down the company according to Dana. I look at it and if he would have respected the fighters more then we would have never been in this position. If he would have cut the fighters in a little more we wouldn’t be in this position. You look at guys like Floyd Mayweather who is making 40 million dollars a fight, what are we doing any different then boxers are? Negotiations and that is it. Fans can’t be made at a fighter for talking about giving more money, because we aren’t talking about them giving more money. We are talking about the promotion cutting us in on more money and that’s all it is. I get kind of bummed on fans who says you guys need to stop talking about money. Well they aren’t the ones that are in the gym eight hours a day six days a week away from their family and putting their lives on the line in training. Fights are easy, let me tell you that. What is hard is a three month training camp, eight hours a day six days a week. Wrestling, kickboxing, jiu jitsu, running, weight training, sparring four times a week. It takes a toll on the body. Our career as fighters are five years for some guys, ten years if you’re lucky. I am on my 17th year and I am super lucky, because my mind is so strong, and my heart is so big that I believe in myself. It’s not like I can retire at 65 years old as a fighter. No our window of opportunity is so small, so that’s why I think we should be paid a lot more. We don’t have anything to fall back on. Now as a business in general this is a business. The Fertita’s know that, that’s why they are billionaires, the UFC knows that, that’s why they stand up for their brand. Me as a fighter, Couture as a fighter, and Shamrock as a fighter, we are all businessmen and trying to treat it as a business and they won’t let us do it. Other fighters are really caving in because they want to be on TV, they want to be superstars. They don’t want to put in the work of being a champion, then doing the road work like going to Iraq like I have done six times, doing mainstream press, doing all the interviews, doing everything possible to make their names a household name. I have over the last 16 years and been very lucky to do that. Dana can talk about me and say whatever he wants. My life goes on, I understand that I have to move on and do whatever I can to feed my kids. It strictly business and no more than that. I have nothing bad to say about Dana. He is doing his the best he can do. I feel bad for those fighters that aren’t getting the million dollar pay days.Who were champions and never got that chance. I made a lot of money, I was smart and invested my money right, and I saved my money the right ways. It was a business for me. When I turned 26 years old it became a business. First from 22 to 26 it was just fighting to me, I wanted to become champion. I took a pay cut to fight for the title. I was supposed to make 50 thousand and only made 25 thousand. I just wanted to fight SEG was going down and I just wanted to fight. I won the world title and I defended my world title twice. I was their first light-heavy weight world champion. I put my life on the line ever since then. Every injury, two neck surgeries, two knee surgeries, many fighters retire many fighters quit. They can’t take the pain, they can’t take the body damage through training. I was able to do that. I was able to speak up and be a person to stand up for the fighters. I probably could have carried myself in a little different manner. That’s the only way I knew how to do it, being a kid that lived on the street that could never trust anybody. I know I had some problems with trust and that comes from my parents and living on the streets. At the end of the day it was a business and I had to look out for my own and I did that. I may have been able to do it a different way but at the end of the day I can look in the mirror and have integrity and respect myself for what I stood for.
RCM: You and Ken had one of the most heated rivalries in the UFC. Now I see on twitter that you guys have sort of a friendship. Is that a mutual respect thing or have you guys became friends?
Tito:I think it really comes down to our competition, us competing against each other. It was real hatred towards each other, we disliked each other. We wanted to see who the best guy was, he got three tries at it and failed each time. I was at my peak each time I did fight him. I made sure I trained hard so he got the best out of me. After it was all over we shook hands and pushed it all behind us. As adults we have to the right things because we did huge things in the sport and brought it to levels nobody thought it could ever get to. Because of that I respect him. It was a side friendship, like Ali and Frazier. We did dislike each other and now it strictly business. We made some of the biggest money off the UFC in history. It was true, everything we said in the fights was true. We solved it when we fought each other. Fighting doesn’t solve a lot on the streets, but when you get in a cage and fight for a profession it solve some things. Now we respect each other as athletes, business men, and fathers. I took a liking to Shamrock because he was a guy that stood up and wasn’t afraid of what really happened at the end of the day against a huge company.
RCM: Randy spanked you at the end of your fight. Do you want another shot at Couture?
Tito: I would love too. I would love to get a shot at all the guys I have losses too. Now Randy is retired but of course I would want another shot. I have always been a person that if you told me I couldn’t do something, I would do it over and over again until I got it done right. As I teach my kids we don’t stop until we do it right. Couture beat me fair and square, he out wrestled me. He has been wrestling longer then I have been alive. That’s how it was, I learned a lot from that fight also. Randy is a competitor and a great guy. I have nothing bad to say about him. We fought a great fight. If I did get another shot at him that would have been nice. I don’t think he has any idea of ever competing again.
RCM: Good news Tito, all you have to do is win the title and challenge him. Randy likes to retire for a while then come back when he can get a title shot.
Tito: When I win the belt that just might happen.
RCM: What do you think about the UFC making Cyborg drop to 135 for the Rousey fight? Do you think as her old manager do you think she can’t even make the weight and then compete at a high level?
Tito: It really comes down to dieting, I look at her size and body make up and think no. I think that would be like me cutting down to 185 which is impossible. I don’t know, she is going to give it a try. I stepped down to try and make it easier for her to get the fight since Dana doesn’t like me. I’m not going to hold her back from being the best she can. I think she is the best women fighter out there right now. I hope she does make 135 so she can beat Ronda. Ronda is the best 135 pounder right now until Chris steps in the cage with her. We will see the proof in the pudding, I don’t think it will last two rounds. I hope Chris can diet the right way and get a little muscle mass off I think she will be fine.
RCM: What are some of your goals after your fighting career is over?
Tito: I have kind of started that already. I have started to manage fighters already. I really enjoy acting too. It’s something that I have done a little and I am reading some scripts and stuff. Keep running my businesses Punishment Athletics, and Punishment Training Center. I have a reality show coming out later on this year. I am trying to make sure I am doing the right things for my future. But I do think acting will be the next thing in my career.
RCM: What are the chances we will see a rematch with Frank Shamrock?
Tito: 0% He is retired and he doesn’t want any part of me. He and I talk, we are actually pretty good friends now. He is a cool cat, he told me dude you are too big for me. We are in different weight classes now. When we fought before, he had a lot more experience than me and now it’s just total different. Different worlds.
RCM: Who are some fighters that you were or are a fans of?
Tito: G.S.P., Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture in MMA. In boxing of course Tyson, Muhammad Ali, De la Hoya
RCM: What is your favorite thing about coaching?
Tito: I think it is just seeing the evaluation of a kid that comes in and just knows stand up, and see him learn and put everything together. I’m not just a coach I’m their friend. I talk to them about everything. I went to college because I thought I was going to be a teacher and a wrestling coach not a fighter.
RCM: Do you have any young guys that we should be watching out for?
Tito: There is a guy named Ricardo Grove that I bring up and train with me. He is a guy at 185 you should be watching out for.
RCM:Is it getting to be that the young guys coming in are so far advanced in the sport that they are leaving the old school guys like yourself, Dan Henderson and the sort behind? Where you can’t compete?
Tito: No. We are learning as we are competing. Rampage just got a knock out in the second round. We are competing the same. You have to take us down which isn’t going to happen. You have to have the full game. I can still compete with any of the top guys I believe. Dan Henderson is competing with top tier guys. I know for a fact I can compete with any of the top guys.
It was a real honor talking to one of the pioneers on modern day mixed martial arts and true Legends of the sport. You can say anything you want about Tito, but the truth is he keeps working hard and coming back all while standing for what he believes is right. Tito Ortiz says he is ready for a fight and just waiting on Bellator to give him a place, date, and opponent. It will be to see Tito get back in the cage and I hope he is able to perform and get back on track. You can follow Tito on Twitter @titoortiz. You can also follow RCM MMA Correspondent Zach Heim on Twitter @Zheim82.
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