MMANews.com's own Justin Bullock recently caught up with former UFC Light Heavyweight champion “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz to discuss a number of topics. Below is a complete transcript of the interview.
TITO ORTIZ INTERVIEW (August 11, 2007)
Justin Bullock of MMANews.com: This is Justin Bullock for MMANews.com and today I'm talking with former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Tito Ortiz. So, Tito, you just got back from Iraq; can you tell us a little bit about your trip?
Tito Ortiz: Actually I got back on Sunday of last week. I was out there for a week, you know? We went to Washington, D.C. first, and went to Bethesda and Walter Reid medical centers where we visited the troops that came from war before I went to go visit all the troops that are still there. And you know, my first experience, seeing something like this, this was a first. It was an eye-opener and a gut-wrenching thing to see all these guys coming back from war missing limbs – legs, arms, you know, brain damaged and so forth – and seeing their families supporting them through it. It just shows that there are a lot of young guys dieing, missing limbs and what-not. It's really a tragedy that's happening. When I went there I really didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how it would feel. But once I was there I really felt like supporting these guys is what matters. And when I walked inside each one of their rooms, just the smiles on their faces because they knew who I was and they were like “I can't believe Tito Ortiz is sitting in my room with me!” It was cool, man. It was a really good time to see that for the first day. Giving these guys support; that is what really matters. I sat down with a lot of them for a long time and just let them know how much I appreciate their support and I appreciate all those guys who are out their laying down their lives for us. We've been at war for the last six years. We've been at war for a while now. When I flew over to Kuwait after I was in D.C., it was a really good feeling. I was really happy to go see some troops. Just the smiles that I saw on their faces when they say “Oh my God! Tito Ortiz is here!” They were just young kids man they were so stoked and happy for it and I was really just proud to be there to maybe bring them a little bit of home. We went and flew into Baghdad two days later. We flew in on a DC-130 – that's like one of their troop transporters that has all the combat gear and everything – and we did what's called a “Combat Landing” and you know the G's that we pulled on the plane on – that was pretty intense. But we got there with no problems at all and visited the troops there. It was exciting, seeing all the smiles on the faces of the guys who knew I came their to support them, and everyone walking around with M-16s. It was a reality check for me, knowing that we are at war. And the weather was so hot, it was like 130 degrees. It was crazy there but it was more than worth it to support these guys and do my best to show them how much I appreciate what they are doing for the country.
MMANews.com: Yeah, it's nice to see someone who has celebrity status vocally supporting our troops. But how does it feel coming back to the states from a trip like this and seeing people walking around practically clueless to what's actually happening over there?
Tito Ortiz: Once you're here it's just a reality check. I'm very grateful even to live here. You know, everybody who works a nine-to-five job and can go home and be with their families, go see movies, or do whatever they want to do; they have a normal life. These troops are there year-in and year-out. Being there for fourteen months with no family, no girlfriend, no wife, and only getting that type of support through email is hard, and it's hard for these guys. I was just glad to go there and try to bring a little bit of home to them.
MMANews.com: So after seeing what the troops go through on a daily basis, would you say you are more motivated now?
Tito Ortiz: Oh, for sure, I feel like I've rededicated myself to these guys. I'm really happy to rededicate myself, and to be proud to be an American. These guys are in a really tough situation out there and to them they don't really know what they are fighting for. They are just there to protect the land that they're on, I mean they don't even know who their enemy is. Guys that live there walk around with assault rifles with no problem at all. You are allowed to do that. Then all of a sudden they come around their back and they pull guns out and start shooting at American troops. It's hard because they don't know who they are fighting because a lot of the terrorists are underground.
MMANews.com: So is it safe to assume that there are American Troops out there rocking Punishment Athletics now?
Tito Ortiz: Oh, yeah for sure, we brought a bunch of 8 x 10s, a bunch of beanies, a bunch of hats and shirts and other stuff. I think we had like five thousand 8 x 10's that we had and they were all given out so we got to touch a lot of troops, man. The clothing line is Punishment and that's what these guys are doing. These guys are out there living the life as real heroes. So anytime I see anybody in the army, navy, marines, etc., wearing my stuff it is really cool.
MMANews.com: What other ideas are you implementing to expand your brand?
Tito Ortiz: When I first started making my company we were more into athletic gear; shirts, board shorts, beanies, you know, stuff you wear to the gym. But now I want to start getting more into jeans and fitted shirts, button down shirts that you can wear to the club and stuff like that. Stuff you can wear to a nice dinner. That's the next step for my clothing company. Punishment is a great name brand and I'm going to keep running with it. I've invested a lot of my time and money and I just want to give the fans stuff that they can wear to the clubs and have a good time. I mean, these are clothes that I wear myself so I want to make sure I look good while I'm out having a good time.
MMANews.com: Are you as sick of seeing Affliction t-shirts as the rest of us are?
Tito Ortiz: Affliction actually started out being high-end and now they are really all over the place to the point that I think people are starting to get sick of it. But with my clothing company I've really built a good base, all by myself with no big money behind it or anything to push it along. You know, I did everything myself; me and my ex-wife, we made it what it is today and I think that there is a lot of room to grow. It's the beginning of a clothing company. Affliction has been around for three or four years and they had a bunch of money to push their shirts and now all of a sudden everyone is wearing them. It'll get burned out. It will be a flash in the pan like most of the clothing companies. But Punishment Athletics is here to stay, I can guarantee you that much.
MMANews.com: You mentioned recently that you are recovering from a back injury. How is the healing process coming along?
Tito Ortiz: I've had a bulging disc in my lower back from the [Randy] Couture fight. It's always reacting and you know after I fought Rashad [Evans] it was really bothering me. Now it's been almost a month since I fought last and I gotta do rehab for it. I'll possibly have to get some injections in my back just to stop the inflammation and after that go through some physical therapy and then get ready for my next fight against Rashad.
MMANews.com: It seems like you rarely go more than one or two fights without getting some sort of injury. I mean, you must have to deal with fighting through the pain all the time, right?
Tito Ortiz: Well, you know it's just one of those things, man. That's just what training is about. That's why I put in such long hours. I've been doing training MMA for tens years, man. I started training in high school for sophomore wrestling and after so many years of doing that my body gets worn down sometimes, you know? That's just one of those things that happens. When injuries come around I deal with them and just do my best to push through them. I'm not gonna back out of any fights. That's just the way I am.
MMANews.com: The rematch fight against Rashad has been rumored for UFC 77 in October. How do you see your current issues with your back coming into play, or is that date for the fight still just hearsay?
Tito Ortiz: Well, there is no fight signed yet. I'm not even one hundred percent yet, so how could I sign a for a fight when I'm not even a hundred percent? I'm not going to make that mistake again. The fight will happen before the year is over for sure. I'm not sure if it is going to be in Cincinnati, it could be but if not, possibly [Las] Vegas which would be sweet because I love to fight in my hometown. You know, whatever happens I just want to make sure I am one hundred percent for the fight. Once I get it signed people will know about it.
MMANews.com: Do you think an immediate rematch with Rashad is necessary considering it would have been a clear-cut decision in your favor had you not had the point taken away?
Tito Ortiz: On paper it says we got a draw, you know? And on paper I want it to say I got the win so I believe a rematch is necessary. To me it's necessary, to Rashad it's necessary, and to my fans it is necessary. But to the people who don't want to see it, it's going to be an exciting fight that they are not going to want to miss. I think the rematch is something that has to be for me to continue on with my career.
MMANews.com: Yeah, I was just wondering if the Rashad fight was going to be your last fight before you renegotiated because that is the last fight on your contract.
Tito Ortiz: Yeah, I only have one fight left and after that I'll resign and continue beating people down in the UFC. It just really comes down to the UFC itself.
MMANews.com: Do you have anyone specific that you'd like to fight after the rematch with Rashad?
Tito Ortiz: After Rashad, Shogun [Rua] would be nice, but anyone in the top five in the world would work. I think my fans deserve it and you know I want to show them that I am here to stay and that I've still got what it takes to be champion.
MMANews.com: How do you see the fight between Rampage [Jackson] and [Dan] Henderson going down?
Tito Ortiz: I think it will be a tough battle. I think Rampage has the ability to knock Henderson out but I think Henderson really has the tools to beat Rampage. He's got a good chance if he works the takedowns but if he can't handle the clinch Rampage is going to knock him out. Rampage has solid hands, heavy hands, a good wrestling base and good submission skills and it's just going to be one of those things where we could see Rampage knock Henderson out.
MMANews.com: So are you going to be betting on Rampage this time since you lost three-thousand dollars betting against him at UFC 71?
Tito Ortiz: You know, about the gambling thing – I'm horrible at gambling. So I'm not going to gamble anymore unless it's Black Jack. I'm always picking guys to win and they end up losing or I'll pick a guy to lose and he'll end up winning, you know, it's just one of those things. It's all about gambling for me, dude. I love gambling because it's fun but lately I haven't been doing so good so I think I'll just stick to the Black Jack tables.
MMANews.com: Are you going to be cornering Kendall Grove at UFC 74 when he fights Patrick Cote?
Former UFC Light Heavyweight champion “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz
Tito Ortiz: I will be there. I know his corner guys are going to be in there with him so I don't think I will, but I will be right by ringside screaming so he'll hear my voice. He'll be able to hone in on my voice and he'll hear me. I'll be out there supporting him as he puts a stomping on Cote and it will be awesome to see, man. I really believe Kendall will be the next Welterweight, or what is it, Middleweight champion and I think he'll do great at that weight. I mean, he's a young kid he's only twenty-three years old an he's only getting better.
MMANews.com: How long do you think it is going to be before he is ready to face the upper echelon of Middleweight fighters?
Tito Ortiz: A couple more fights. After this fight, if he dominates with a quick win and so forth, and then maybe one more fight after that. And you know, we'll see. I really think that Kendall, as long as they pace him the right way, will be a champion soon.
MMANews.com: Who do you have winning the main event of UFC 74, Couture or [Gabriel] Gonzaga?
Tito Ortiz: I think Gonzaga will submit Randy. If Randy has the right game plan he has a great chance of winning, but if he gets sloppy grappling around with a good submission guy he's gonna get caught in a submission. And Gonzaga's really good. I think it will be an exiting fight and I'll be there watching so I'm looking forward to it. I think Gonzaga should be the champion by the end of the night.
MMANews.com: Who do you have for the Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck fight?
Tito Ortiz: You know, I think St. Pierre should dominate. I don't think it will be a problem for him. I think St. Pierre will really dominate the fight. And it'll be a good fight though, I really see it being a great fight.
MMANews.com: So are there any match ups, besides your next fight with Rashad, that you look forward to seeing? Any organization.
Tito Ortiz: Um, not really. I really kinda pay attention to my own fights more than anything, you know? I haven't really caught anything besides the Henderson and Rampage fight. It's really caught my eye. The only thing beyond that is the Forrest [Griffin] vs. Shogun fight, possibly. You know, I'd like to see Forrest beat Shogun. That'd be killer.
MMANews.com: If that were to happen it would make sense that your next fight after you beat Rashad would be another rematch against Forrest for a shot at the Light Heavyweight title, a fight that the UFC has been trying to make happen for some time. They even tried to set that fight up for UFC 72 but you declined because said you wanted to face tougher competition, right?
Tito Ortiz: Yeah, I believe it was taking a step back in competition, you know? I'm gonna fight somebody who I already beat? I mean that's stupid. I wanted to fight a guy who was unbeatable and who no one has beat and that's why I picked the Rashad fight. And now that I've had a draw with Rashad, you know, the next fight will be against Rashad and the winner between Forrest and Shogun and myself and Rashad should fight for a title shot after that one.
MMANews.com: Being one of the most controversial figures in the sport, there are a lot of people who seem to hate you just for being “Tito Ortiz.” Does that ever affect you at all?
Tito Ortiz: Those fans that hate on me, that doesn't really affect me. They don't really matter to me. I could care less about those guys. The guys that matter to me, the guys I care about are the guys that got love for me. The guys that support me win, lose, or draw. Those are the guys I care about. The ones who hate and talk smack and are on the forums talking, you know, they're “keyboard warriors.” And you know, that's fine. I don't let those guys get to me. I could care less.
MMANews.com: You've mentioned before that Dana White is always nice to your face, but it seems like every chance he gets he says something negative about you. What do you say to him the next time you see him after he says stuff like that?
Tito Ortiz: You know, for now I think the best step is just to continue on with my own life. Forget about what Dana White says, forget about what Dana White is. I can live my life without him. After the SpikeTV-Dana White show, he apologized to me and said he was sorry and so forth and I took that like “Alright, cool. I dig your apology and [am] glad we could work out things.” And then after I fought Rashad he said I was a moron and that my girlfriend Jenna [Jameson] is a moron and that he'd rather talk to a table. It just shows the childish way that he is. That's Dana, and I could care less about him. I don't have to work with him anymore and that's fine. I've taken a step forward and I've been talking to Lorenzo Fertitta as I mentioned to you guys last time we spoke. He's a friend of mine and we get along very well plus he's a really good business man. We are going to speak with each other from this point on about contract stuff so Dana's no longer included.
MMANews.com: Do you think Dana just says these things to make himself more famous? I mean, in ten or twenty years everyone who follows MMA will still know who Tito Ortiz is, but can we say the same about Dana?
Tito Ortiz: Well, you know, in Dana's mind he's gonna be there forever. He's the frontrunner. He gets to do all the TV shows and interviews and talk smack about his fighters. He's always the guy in the limelight. He's always wanted to be a superstar. Dana “it's good to be” White wants to be a superstar. He has that goal and you can't do anything about it when he has millions of dollars behind him, and that's what he has. So he's gonna be a superstar, you know? It's kind of funny when I go to UFC's and seen him signing autographs and stuff. It makes me laugh. I was like, “Oh, when was the last time this guy got in the octagon and fought? Oh yeah, I forgot – he never did.” And you know what, it's just really funny to see his true colors and see the way he talks and see the fakeness that he has and all of the childish things he does. And that's never gonna change. There are fans that say “Oh, Dana is the greatest thing to ever happen,” and then there's fans that say: “Dana is taking advantage of the fighters.” Then there are the people that know what's really going on. But Dana's Dana. I can't change him, and he's not going to change himself so we'll see in the future what happens.
MMANews.com: That says a lot for your loyalty to the company and to the Fertitta brothers. It seems like you have chosen to taken the high road and swallow your pride for the sake of the UFC and your career as well.
Tito Ortiz: Yeah, you know it was a little bit of pride swallowing, but I got what I wanted. Through my contract stuff, I got what I wanted. But then it seemed like the more and more that I got bigger, Dana would try and squash me. You know back in the day when he said “Tito Ortiz will no longer fight in the UFC as long as I am president.” And just to hear that from his mouth, all this stuff he never said to my face even when I was doing The Ultimate Fighter reality show. But, you know, I am a star and I'm going to be a star no matter what company is behind me. I would love for it to be the UFC. The Fertitta's have done so much for me and my family so I think they deserve it. It is nothing towards Dana at all. I could give two flying-flips what Dana thinks or what Dana believes. It's all about the Fertittas who have taken care of me and who have done well with me.
MMANews.com: Let's move on to some more random, questions like what type of food do you like to eat? What type of music do you listen to?
Tito Ortiz: I like a lot of music, you know? Hardcore stuff: Korn, Eminem, DMX. I pretty much listen to everything, man. I really do as long as it's not country. Um, food? Well, I love sushi and Mexican food, you know?
MMANews.com: What is your least favorite exercise?
Tito Ortiz: My least favorite exercise [laughs]? I really don't have one. I love doing everything, man. Um, I guess leg workouts. Leg workouts are the worst, man, those ones hurt. The next day it takes a lot out of my body.
MMANews.com: Are you planning on getting back to your acting career anytime soon?
Tito Ortiz: Yeah. You know what? I just did a film about four months ago actually. It's called “Zombie.” I play a monster and so on and so forth. I want to continue acting but right now my fighting career is really important. But if the right thing were to come about and I have the chance to do it, I'm not gonna say no. But as of right now the most important thing is my fighting career.
MMANews.com: Do you think that Randy Couture being in the new “Scorpion King” prequel will affect his performance against Gonzaga or have any negative affect on his fighting career?
Tito Ortiz: What movie is it?
MMANews.com: Yeah, Randy Couture is supposedly slated to be the new bag guy in the “Scorpion King” prequel. The movie that launched The Rock's acting career, etc.
Tito Ortiz: Really? That's awesome [laughs]. That's awesome for him. I'm very proud for him, man. You know he is forty-four years old so at least he's catching a little bit of the acting at the tail end of his career.
MMANews.com: What do you plan on doing when you retire from the sport?
Tito Ortiz: After I get done with fighting the acting career is something I've really been looking forward to. I'll be fighting for about three or four more years so after a foundation of doing that I think acting would be the next step for me and I'm really excited to do it.
MMANews.com: Do you have any sponsors that you would like to thank before we get going?
Tito Ortiz: Well of course, my number one sponsor is Punishment Athletics at www.punishmentathletics.com. I'd like to thank them for their support, and of course, for being a great company. I'd also like the thank all the fans that support me, and, you know, I'll be fighting before the year is over. I'll make sure I'll get a fight in, and fight Rashad one more time. Once again, thanks to the fans, and that's all I've got to say.
MMANews.com: Well thanks for taking the time to answer some questions and we look forward to your next fight.
Tito Ortiz: Right on man, thank you much.
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