Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz’s Octagon beginnings didn’t start with any financial compensation.
Ortiz is regarded as one of the top fighters in UFC history, with wins over the likes of Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, and Forrest Griffin on his record. He won the then-vacant light heavyweight title over Silva at UFC 25 before defending it five times.
Ortiz’s journey in the Octagon is one of the most legendary in UFC history, and the start of it makes it even more remarkable. After becoming a state champion in California junior college wrestling, he made the transition to MMA on a whim.
While he would eventually become one of MMA’s top stars, Ortiz started with humble beginnings.
Tito Ortiz Made His UFC Debut At UFC 13 In 1997
During a recent interview with Chris Van Vliet, Ortiz made a shocking admission regarding his first UFC event.
“I fought in UFC 13… I fought for free as an amateur, no UFC fighter in history has ever fought for free,” Ortiz said. “I did it just to kinda test myself, see how good I truly could be. J.C, junior college wrestling state champion…was 199 [pounds] and thought I’d give it a try. I was training with Tank Abbott who fought in the UFC at the time and thought hey let’s give this a try… so I fought May 30th, 1997, stopped my first guy in seconds.
“I visualized myself in the finals, and the guy that made it to the finals incidentally ended up getting hurt, and I was the replacement. I was beating Guy Mezger and then they separated us, put us back on our feet, hit him with a big shot, and cut him… went for a takedown and got caught in a guillotine and didn’t know what that was at the time, white belt stuff. I had to tap, but I was hooked.
“I loved it… as a kid growing up on the streets, parents not being around me that much, I was always dying for attention. And the attention was there of fans [wanting my autograph]… but to come to realize that this was going to be the making of Tito Ortiz.”
Ortiz may not be done competing in MMA just yet. He’s recently teased a return to the sport by the end of the year despite nothing reported to be in the works.
The UFC Hall of Famer Ortiz would go on to earn three-straight wins after his profitless night at UFC 13. However, it wouldn’t be long before Ortiz became one of the highest-paid athletes on the roster during his title reign.
This isn’t the only recent head-turning Tito Ortiz story. Read up on more right here.