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 411mania » MMA » Columns

411Mania Exclusive Interview with Tito Ortiz
Posted by Lotfi Sariahmed on 07.18.2007

"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC today. Tito Ortiz has been behind some of the largest grossing PPV's in the UFC's history. Coming off his draw to Rashad Evans at UFC 73, Tito took the time to talk to 411Mania in this exclusive interview to talk about that fight, where his career is headed and so much more…

411Mania.com: So we're a little more than a week removed from UFC 73 and your bout with Rashad Evans. What are your thoughts on the bout now that you've had some time to think about it?

Tito Ortiz: You know I really had time to actually look at it and watch the fight itself. I fought a great fight outside the one time when they took the point off and they showed I grabbed the fence. It looked like my hand skimmed the fence. Rashad ended up taking me down anyway and that's when I got a guillotine submission on him. He ended up being saved by the round. So I kind of question that a little bit. Did I really grab the fence when they took the point away? Because the very first time, yea I grabbed the fence I admitted to that. It was a mistake on my part and it was a reaction. But the overall fight, I fought a fairly aggressive fight.

411Mania.com: So do you think the point deduction was warranted?

Ortiz: There's a yes and no. In the fight, I thought that he never warned me. Then I watched the replay and I saw he did warn me first and then when my hand skimmed the fence and not really grabbed the fence is when he took the point away. McCarthy does his job and does it right most of the time so maybe there was a point in time where my hand went to the fence to try and catch myself. In the long run, I think the correct decision was made.

411Mania.com: So can you confirm there will be a rematch between you and Rashad?

Ortiz: Yes, there will be that rematch, that's pretty much what Dana said. I'm not 100% sure when it's happening but there will be a rematch.

411Mania.com: How are you physically after that fight? I know you said you hurt your back when did that happen during the fight?

Ortiz: In the second round I bumped my back up a little bit where I got a kink in my disc. From that point on my feet were really heavy. After the fight I was bed-ridden for like a week and luckily I had my beautiful girlfriend Jenna to take care of me.

411Mania.com: The fans gave you some flack for talking about the injury post-fight. They've done it for other fighters as well. What are your thoughts about what's turning into a trend with fans booing when a fighter talks about an injury?

Ortiz: It comes down to the fans not understanding what we do as fighters. These injuries can hinder our fighting and it hurts our style. The fans need to understand what we go through as fighters so they understand why any injury is such a big deal.

411Mania.com: How do you feel going into this rematch with Rashad? Do you feel more confident that now maybe you've found more holes in his game to exploit? Are you making any changes for the second fight?

Ortiz: I feel that much better about a fight. We both know each others strengths and weaknesses. He knows how strong I feel, I know how strong he feels. I know his striking and he knows mine. It will make for a very exciting fight the next time around. I know Rashad backed up for most of the fight and the next time I have to go and be more aggressive and force the action. He kept backing up so I have to bring the fight to him. I also found out I have to take advantage of my reach against him. I have a four-inch advantage on him. I have a 74 inch reach and he has a 70 inch reach so that will be very important this next fight.

411Mania.com: Did you gain any respect for Rashad after your fight with him? Did his behavior during the press conference change anything? Is that the kind of thing you'll use for motivation in your rematch?

Ortiz: I absolutely have more respect for him. I'm happy that there's someone who could talk the game and bring the fight. I think that's what sell the PPV. A lot of fans want to see the smack talk and want to see the fight too. I think that's what both Rashad and I give.

I would think Liddell would want a tougher opponent…

411Mania.com: In our last interview you said you wanted the winner of Chuck Liddell v. Wanderlei Silva after you beat Rashad. Obviously we have to wait a bit longer on that potential fight because of the draw and the fight that is now off again. What are you thoughts on this whole fiasco with Silva and Liddell?

Ortiz: I thought I was going to dominate the fight as I did. I thought I was going to win. There are a couple of mistakes that prevented that from happening but there are reasons for everything. Liddell not fighting Wanderlei, all of a sudden he's fighting Jardine, I would think Liddell would want to take a tougher opponent after his loss but I guess you kind of get what you want when you're saying yes to the UFC on everything they give you.

411Mania.com: So you think this is a step down for Liddell in terms of competition.

Ortiz: For sure. Rashad beat him (Jardine). He got knocked out by that Alexander guy, I don't know who he was he came out of nowhere. I think Liddell should have taken a little harder fight coming off of being a champion and being as dominant as he has been.

Silva ducking Liddell? I highly doubt that.

411Mania.com: Do you think Silva is REALLY ducking Liddell?

Ortiz: Silva ducking Liddell? I highly doubt that. I guarantee you Silva's manager is very smart and they want to make sure Silva gets paid. I guarantee you Dana White's only way out of not paying him is saying that he doesn't want to fight with Liddell because he's ducking him. It's the same thing that happened to me when I was going to fight Liddell the first time. They were saying I was ducking Liddell and I didn't want to fight him. I just wanted to get paid! They're making millions and millions of dollars and they're paying us hundreds of thousands of dollars. It just doesn't make sense. I'm a businessman and I'm going to make sure I make good business decisions for myself and I think Wanderlei's people are doing the same thing for him. But Dana White's the one who's pretty much holding every one of the fighters down. He's saying, "Oh you're not good enough." "You don't have enough draw." "Or people don't care about you at all" or "you're only as good as your last fight." That's all promoters want to do and Dana White's the best at it.

411Mania.com: So if everything goes as planned and you get the fight you want, you'll be fighting the winner of "The Iceman" v. "The Axe Murderer." Lets say Liddell wins, what's different about the third fight that puts you on top?

Ortiz: I guess the difference about the third fight is that Liddell's been knocked out…unconscious. I've been building and getting better. It came down to a confidence issue the first and second time. I have that confidence for the third time. I'll be ready to fight him because I've been constantly building and getting better.

411Mania.com: What about your contract status? Your next fight coming up will be your last in this deal with the UFC. Have they started renegotiating with you already? And would you seriously consider moving to a promotion like EliteXC that seems to keep getting bigger with rumors that they're buying ICON and King of the Cage.

Ortiz: Honestly it's all just a matter of what the UFC is going to do. I would like to stay with the UFC but they've got to pay me. That's what it comes down to. They've said enough times they don't need me in the UFC. Well, we'll see what happens. If the UFC wants me back after the fight, they'll have to pay me.

I just wanted to get paid!

411Mania.com: How much longer do you see yourself fighting?

Ortiz: It all depends really. I'd like to fight for three or four more years but we'll see how long my body holds up.

411Mania.com: Let's move to your Team Punishment camp for a bit. Are you still working with Kendall Grove and Matt Hamill? How is training going for their respective fights taking on Patrick Cote and Michael Bisping?

Ortiz: Unfortunately I've actually parted ways with Matt. I know he's in Cincinnati working hard. He's doing his own thing training with his guys. It's kind of hard for him to come out to California especially with a wife and kid. Kendall Grove is actually in Las Vegas training with Couture for his fight against Cote. We're actually pretty excited because we just signed Kendall to a contract with Team Punishment clothing so we'll be taking care of him for a while.

411Mania.com: You were so high on Kendall as his coach during the third season of The Ultimate Fighter. Now that he's had another year or so of training and fights since the Finale, how far do you see him going in that middleweight division?

Ortiz: I mean I think he's done a really good job so far. He can only really become more dominant. He keeps growing as a fighter and I think he could really do some damage. I think Kendall could be a world champion at middleweight.

I think Kendall could be a world champion at middleweight.

411Mania.com: Are there any other Team Punishment fighters doing anything you want to tell us about?

Ortiz: Well there's Tiki Ghosn, he's going to be fighting in the WEC on Versus coming up (August 5th with Blas Avena as his rumored opponent). Rob McCullough will also be fighting on Versus with the WEC (their September 5th card rumored to be against Rich Crunkilton). Then there's Justin McCully too who's set to fight in September but we don't know who he'll be fighting yet.

411Mania.com: The popularity of Team Punishment really had to have soared after being a coach on season three of The Ultimate Fighter. I know you've said you loved the experience you got coaching. Would you coach another season of the show?

Ortiz: Oh hell yes. I loved my experience during that season. I love helping the guys out. I care about them all. It was an awesome time. It also gave me a chance to show the fans a side they haven't seen to me before.

411Mania.com: Speaking of image, how has that affected your image with fans you meet on the streets. You're still a very polarizing figure so what's been the general reaction?

Ortiz: The fans I meet love me. Even the ones that may hate me say they love me. I know there are those keyboard warriors out there who talk all this smack about me. But even those guys are at least respectful when they meet me. They shake my hand and I appreciate that.

411Mania.com: Of course Tito Ortiz and Team Punishment don't stop at fighting. You have your clothing line as well. Talk about the balancing act between the two ventures because you've been just as successful with your clothing line as you have been fighting.

Ortiz: I work hard doing both. I put a lot of time and effort into my training and my fighting and I do well. It also helps out a lot that my ex-wife is doing a lot of the work for the company.

411Mania.com: You brought out some new gear for UFC 73. What should the fans expect coming out of the clothing company coming up?

Ortiz: Team Punishment clothing is always looking to add more stuff. We're thinking about branching into making Levis soon, socks, underwear and a whole bunch of different things. The goal is to eventually be able to wear Team Punishment clothing to the gym and be able to go to a nice restaurant or a nightclub in Team Punishment clothing as well.

411Mania.com: What are your thoughts about potentially branching out and coming up with other products? Could we possibly see some Team Punishment energy drinks come out?

Ortiz: It's funny you mention that because Team Punishment energy drinks are actually in the works. So we're working on that and a few other things as well. We're working on boxing gloves and training gear and we also have a new reality show coming up. So it's all pretty exciting.

411Mania.com: Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap up?

Ortiz: I just wanted to thank all my fans for all their support supporting me and Team Punishment athletics. I also wanted to let everybody know I will be going to Iraq at the end of the month as part of the USO tour to visit the troops.

411Mania.com: Thanks for taking the time Tito.

Ortiz: Thank you.

Punishment Athletics and Tito Ortiz

Credit Punishment.com, Newsday.com, UFCMedia.com and CNNSI.com for the pictures.


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