It was on May 30, 1997 that Tito Ortiz made his professional mixed martial arts debut. It was on that night at UFC 13 that a young “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” would defeat Wes Albritton in just 31 seconds and then go on to compete in a second fight, losing way of submission to Guy Mezger. Despite the loss, a star was born.
Now at 44 years of age, and having earned a significant amount of money, fame, several world titles, and a UFC Hall of Fame induction along the way, Ortiz is still going strong. Even after enduring what many might consider to be career ending injuries and surgeries, Ortiz is still not done. We have seen fighters start their careers years after Tito began his, yet also call it quits long before he even contemplated shutting it down.
On December 7, Tito Ortiz will lead the Hispanic MMA sports franchise, Combate Americas, into unchartered waters as he headlines the promotion’s first major pay-per-view event. Ortiz will face 42-year old former WWE superstar Alberto Rodriguez, also known as “El Patron” and “Alberto Del Rio.”
“Well you know, it all goes back to where I started,” Ortiz said about his longevity in the sport. “I was an amateur wrestler in high school and in college. I was an amateur when I started with the UFC, May 30, 1997. I never fought ever before then. A year and a half later I became world champion through hard work and dedication. But, I was still learning, and I was always still learning, so by the fifth, or sixth year of defending my title like I did, I was still an amateur, still learning. Now let’s fast forward to this camp. I’m showing that I can do the right things to prepare for a fight. Each one of my last three camps have been over 18 weeks and I think it is just showing the hard work and dedication of it, to perform at the highest level that I can. Just having the mindset for it all. I’m willing to sacrifice, I’m willing to dedicate, I’m willing to have the consistency in my camps. I love what I do. I love being in great shape. I love being in fight shape. I love entertaining my fans. I love showing my kids what hard work and dedication is, and I’m very, very fortunate to be where I am today. To have all those surgeries that I did, and to bounce back, it shows that the proof in the pudding, of hard work, through dedication.”
Even at 44-years of age, Ortiz says he feels great going through the training camps and that this particular one is no different than the rest.
“I couldn’t complain, everything is going great,” Ortiz said of his preparation for Rodriguez. “I’m glad I started my camp super early but that’s just how serious I am in taking this fight. He’s a bigger guy. He’s a little bigger than me, about 6’4″ I think. I gave him an extra five pound advantage in weight, at 210 (pounds). I normally make 205 pounds, light heavyweight division as I have since the beginning of my career. I’m putting in a camp like I did for my last one with Chuck Liddell. The fight only last four and a half minutes. I’m kind of expecting the same from this one. Getting my hands raised in a quick amount of time. I’ve got to push the pace. I’ve got to put him in the red zone form the time it starts until the last round, making him feel the pressure of Tito Ortiz.”
Recently several MMA sites reported that current two division Bellator champion Ryan Bader has been helping prepare Rodriguez for Ortiz. Bader and Ortiz themselves have history. It was at UFC 132, in July 2011, that Ortiz submitted Bader with a guillotine choke.
“I would say I’m a little bit concerned, but not anything definite,” Ortiz said of Bader helping Rodriguez out. “Not anything that makes me go, ‘oh no, he’s training with Ryan Bader.’ You have to understand, I beat Ryan Bader and I wasn’t at my best. I’m at my best now. I’m better than I was when I beat him in 2011. I’m ten times better than I was in 2011, just my mindset, the people that are around me, the positive reinforcements I have around me, my body reaction, no pain, no neck pain, no back pain, no knee pain. It’s makes me a little concerned because Alberto Del Rio isn’t just training with some wrestler guys. He’s training with world champion so that brings another side to the story that this guy is taking it serious. He moved away from San Antonio where he is from, to Arizona. He’s taking it very seriously. He’s not just gonna lay down. And I expect that from him. Him being a fellow Latino himself, he takes the fight very seriously.”
Rodriguez has not competed in a sanctioned mixed martial arts contest in more than nine years. When asked if the former professional wrestler is making a mistake by challenging him in his comeback, Ortiz said:
“I think he’s making a mistake. A big chance gives a big reward in his mind, I think. He’s willing to sacrifice that to get a big reward, but I think he did bite off a little more than he can chew, but we’re beyond that now. I’m finishing up my last week of training now, and then next week it is already too late, no more talking. It’s time to take care of business, step in the cage, and may the best man win. I know it’s going to be me. I’ve just got to be smart. I’ve got to fight intelligently, fight at my pace, and put the fight to him, and take him to water he’s never been in before.”