tito ortiz

UFC Middleweight Champion

Tito Ortiz Interview Part 2

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Pooch: One of your most notable fights was with Frank Shamrock for his UFC middleweight belt. I'd be really grateful if you could take us through that one

Tito Ortiz : Man that was a tough fight, I trained hard, I mean I trained as hard as I knew how to train at that time. I believe that that was my first year of training the whole time, I was still learning, Frank Shamrock I believe he had like 35 fights or something like that, he’s fought all over the world so he’s pretty much fought everybody and knows what everybody feels like. So I came in thinking I was going to just bulldoze over him and for the first three rounds I did. I think it was more of a lack of experience in myself. I pushed and pushed and pushed until I had nothing left. He had a little bit more left to finish on me, that was the experience from him knowing when to relax and everything and it was something that I didn’t take for granted, I should have relaxed in a lot of positions but I didn’t. I went 100% the whole time I never relaxed because I didn’t know how to do that yet because I was such a young fighter.

I think nobody tested Frank like I did, never. I have watched all of his fights and nobody has ever tested him the way I did and he told me that personally, He told me I was tough as hell, he said I was probably one of the toughest guys he’s ever fought. I took that loss as a win because I learnt so much from it and I get better and better each time. I learned how to pace myself and work on the right things that would make me a winner.

Pooch: I noticed during the Silva fight that your conditioning wasn’t a problem at all.

Tito Ortiz : No, it’s the same thing to, it’s putting a game plan together. If I had put a game plan together against Frank I would have won, but going up there and just trying to fight and putting all your heart into it instead of putting a game plan together isn’t enough. Sometimes if someone has a better game plan he can beat you and that’s it.

Pooch: At Abu Dhabi 2000 you showed the world that you could trade submissions with some of the best, you must have met some truly great fighters in Abu Dhabi, how did you train for this competition and which fighters at Abu Dhabi stood out from the crowd for you.

tito at the ADCC

Tito Ortiz : I wrestled at Goldwest college, I pretty much wrestled the whole time, lift weights and ran I just worked on my cardio. The one thing that I did a little different than a lot of people was I trained on the time that Abu Dhabi was on. Like at home it would be 4:00 in the morning and I would be running. All my workouts were like midnight workouts. So when I went there I would be adjusted to there time. I saw a lot of people get tired from that because they were so used to training on there own time, so I kind of took that into perspective and I worked on that. I worked on my submissions with Joe Moreira and Fabiano Iha, I learnt a lot from them. When I went to Abu Dhabi some of the standouts that I saw where Mark Kerr of course and myself, I mean everyone said how good I was and I was like wow.

Pooch: It shocked a lot of people to see a guy who’s style is ground ‘N’ pound pulling off knee bars and choking people out.

Tito Ortiz : Yea I know it was cool. I think at that time everything was falling together submission wise. I could open up and not have to worry about getting struck. Guys were trying to put submissions on me but I have a good defence against them. Getting hit when doing submissions is not something that I would like to do, submission wrestling and mixed martial arts are two totally different sports. When someone goes for a submission and a guy punches them in the head there gonna lay off the submission hold a lot easier. If somebody is not punching on you then you can work for things and open up and that’s what I did. In that tournament I was one of the standouts there, I just wanted to put on a show for Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayed because that’s what he paid me to do.

Pooch: The war you had with Vanderlai for the vacant UFC title at UFC XXV was in my opinion one of the best fights of last year. Silva managed to rock you several times during that fight but you stayed calm and managed to neutralise his aggressive style of fighting. Silva is one of the most intimidating fighters out there, tell us how that one went and did you feel the least bit intimidated by Vanderlai`s famous stare.

Tito Ortiz : No I didn’t really. I knew I was going out to give my life out there, that was it. I didn’t care who we was, I just knew there was a belt out there for me to win. I didn’t really think about who he was. I watched all his tapes. I knew he was super dangerous and that a lot of people didn’t want to fight him, I didn’t want to fight him. When it happens its like fine I’m in this Octagon and it’s on, there’s no other thing to do. I looked over at him, I think I was one of the first people to make him blink and take a deep breath before the fight. He was looking at me and I was not backing down at all. There was no reason for me to back down, I was there to fight, and I was ready to go to war. We were fighting for our countries and I was ready to put my life on the line. That’s how everything happened, I knew I could put a game plan together, by taking him down. I knew he was a very powerful striker but if I could smoother him and take him out of his game I knew he would be easy to beat. A lot of people had problems taking him down but I had no problem.

Pooch: How did you feel after that match knowing that you had made it, that you where the best middleweight fighter in the world.

Tito Ortiz : I felt unsatisfied. It was a feeling of like I wasn’t done yet. Frank Shamrock won five world titles, so I feel like it’s my job to win six. After that win I felt like it was just a stepping stone on to bigger and better things and winning more titles. So I’m unsatisfied, I’m still not satisfied after winning my second, I’ve got to win a whole lot more. I’m such a young athlete in this sport, I have a lot to learn and if I keep working hard I reckon I could be the best mixed martial artist ever. I still don’t feel like I’m the best, I still feel that there are a couple more guys out there a little bit better and have a little more game then me but I’m working hard every day to be the best.

Pooch: More recently you defeated Yuki Kondo in UFC XXIX in Japan, which you finished rather quickly with a neck crank. What are your thoughts about that fight?

Tito Ortiz : I knew I was fighting him in his home country and I knew he was going to take everything I gave to him punching wise. So I knew I had to get a submission on him because I knew that was the only way I was going to stop him. When I first came out it was like tunnel vision, he kicked me in the head, I caught the kick and went in for a shot, he then came in with a flying knee. It hit me right on the chin, I did a little back flip and came to my feet. When I got to my feet I was perfect, I mean it didn’t really daze me that bad. The knee he hit me with would have knocked out a lot of people

Pooch: I’ve not seen the fight but I have heard a lot about that knee.

Tito Ortiz : : Oh yea it was a good one. After that I pretty much double under hooked, body locked and took him to the ground. He tried to put me in his guard and I just pounded him. He tried to get out so I held him in the fence and I pounded him some more. He then tried to take me down so I got him in a neck crank. When I turned him to his back I could hear him puffing, all of a sudden he stopped breathing and he tapped me on the back real hard.

Pooch: And that was it.

Tito Ortiz : Yep that was it.

Pooch: You are scheduled to fight Evan Tanner at UFC XXX. How do you rate Tanners skills and do you think Evans long absence from MMA will effect the fight.

Tito Ortiz : He’s probably one of the strongest and most powerful strikers right now as a middleweight. He’s a good wrestler, he’s good in the clinch with his Mauy Thai and he’s real decent on the ground. I think he is going to really test me striking wise. The lay off, I don’t think will really matter that much because he started back training in June of last year, so he’s been training the whole time. Some people just need time off to re collect themselves and get ready to fight again. I know he’s going to come at me at 100%. He has nothing to lose and I have everything to lose, so that’s why I’m training a lot harder for this one. Once again I’m gonna be out there putting my life on the line and do you know what, who ever wins that night is the better fighter and I’m 150% sure its going to be me.

Pooch: Who are you training with at the moment for that fight?

Tito Ortiz : Right now, wow, we’ve got a great group out here. I’m training with John Lewis, Chuck Liddel, Fabiano Iha, Egan Inoue and some younger guys like Mark Laimon, there’s like fifteen guys up here. We are a professional sport and we treat it professionally. We’re up here at Big Bear, the elevation here is 7200 feet above sea level. We try to do everything that boxers do but more like wrestling and submission.

Pooch: Can you let us know a bit about your training set up please Tito. Maybe you could tell us a bit about training with Tank Abbott, John Lober and John Lewis.

Tito Ortiz : When I first started training with Tank Abbott it was like, you know, he was an extra partner to wrestle with. He taught me how to punch and gave me the mental attitude to go out there and beat the fuck out of anybody I wanted to. He taught me not to be scared of anybody, "you should just get in there and beat their ass," that was the attitude that he had. It actually lost him a lot of matches. There was a time when I saw people winning more and more but he didn’t want to learn that stuff, so that’s when I knew that it was my time to grow and become a better fighter by going on and learning from others. I went to John Lober who was good with submissions. He kept working me with pankration and everything and helping me out with my submissions, that was around the time that I fought Frank. There was a little jealousy between John and me when I fought Frank. Earlier Frank beat Lober and after that we were out partying and drinking and stuff. I went up to John and told him that I thought I could beat him, (Frank). I wasn’t really being disrespectful towards him, like putting him down or anything, I just thought that I had a little more to give to frank. I think I hurt his feelings at that time. When I fought Frank, John was my corner man, he never said anything in my corner, he never told me how much time I had left, and he told everybody else to be quite and not to say anything. He really left me to go out there and fight by myself. So at that time I felt like I couldn’t trust this guy any more If I was to go on to bigger and better things. At that time I met John Lewis, he’s like my brother man. He has a great heart and he believes in being friends first and fighting second. He respects everybody. Were putting a tremendous group together with Chuck, John and Scott Adams, we just have a great team here.

Pooch: Here in the UK, we know Scott as the guy who beat our very own Ian Freeman in his first UFC appearance.

Tito Ortiz : Scott Adams is a leg locking maniac, he loves leg locks.

Pooch: A lot of fans and fighters have their heroes and role models in MMA, who did you look up to in the early days.

Tito Ortiz : I looked up to Bas Rutten. Bas was my idol. People were just so scared of fighting him, he was like the man. I thought that was what I need to do now. If I train as hard as he does then one day I’ll be as good as him and two years later look where I am, I’m on top of the world. I’m got to say thanks to him, (Bas) for helping me out by making me believe in dreams. Dreams are only as high as you assume, but you need role models to look up to. That’s my job now, kids are looking up to me know as a role model, that’s my job.

Pooch: What, in your opinion, makes a top grade MMA fighter.

Tito Ortiz : For me, to make a top grade MMA fighter you would have to be learning the best in Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, kickboxing, weight lifting, cardio and being able to put a good game plan together. If you have all these things then you will be the best someday, it’s just a matter of time and learning everything. Going out and learning from other people and not being scared of learning things that you don’t know is the key.

Pooch: Yea I’m going through that at the moment. I’ve been grappling for around three years and I’ve just started boxing, to be fair it scares the shit out of me at the moment, It’s hard to get used to being hit.

Tito Ortiz : Yea you know what it is, your body can take so much punishment, and it’s not that bad. When you get hit a few times, you know what it’s OK. You go home, fall asleep and when you get up you’ll feel just fine. Wear a head guard and a mouthpiece that’s the most important thing when you’re boxing with heavy gloves on. Just keep bobbing and weaving, (laughs).

Pooch: In your opinion, how do you think the UFC (and MMA in America as a whole) pulled itself from the brink of criminalisation to being showcased in the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City? What lessons should we in the UK and Europe take away with us from that?

Tito Ortiz : Just knowing that it’s being seen as a professional sport now. At the beginning when the UFC firs started it was a freak show. They had guys who were good on the ground or good on stand up. They didn’t wear gloves and that is why it was more of a freak show, it was for entertainment only, it wasn’t for a sport. Now it has become a sport. People are putting techniques together, people are putting game plans together, we’ve got gloves, and we got rules. It’s real good for people who have wrestled before or who have boxed at a good level, put it together with kicks and everything and make it a whole sport. I think the UFC at the Trump Taj Mahal will be the best show they have ever had, guaranteed. I think we’ve come to our evolution and its going to go up and up each year.

Pooch: Here in the UK our sport still gets ripped to pieces by the press.

Tito Ortiz : As long as the venue or the people who are putting on the event are making sure that you have good rules and that the fighters wear gloves, you have to make it look clean. Make sure that guys aren’t getting knocked out and the other guy doesn’t keep punching him, which is what these people look at. In the UFC we’re trying to clean that up so none of that stuff happens. It’s bad that a lot of shows advertise their fights as having no rules, you can’t bite or eye gouge well that’s rules, so they advertise it badly. The UFC has put rules down so it becomes more of a sport. A lot of people have to take this into consideration.

Pooch: With Randleman loosing the heavyweight title it know seems he may enter the middleweight scene, if this happens I am sure there will be a Tito v Randleman fight somewhere down the line. How would your training change and how would you go about putting it to a high calibre, explosive wrestler like The Monster.

Tito Ortiz : My training wouldn’t change at all. He would have to change for him to fight me because of everything that I do. A wrestler who had to fight me is either going to get knocked out or submitted because they don’t do everything that I do. If you have seen Randleman fight off his back, he really look’s like a turtle. He tries to get off his back but he can’t. I believe he has to learn that game. I’ve been doing this game for so long that its taken me three and a half years to learn how to get off my back and how to push people into my guard. If he hasn’t learned how to do that now then I’m already years ahead of him. Plus I want to see him down at 199lbs instead of being 220 on steroids. That’s one factor, anybody who takes steroids to make them bigger, their weak minded and they probably have a weak heart too and they are not willing to put their life on the line like I am.

Pooch: It seems you have mastered the cutting weight then bulking back up just before the fight process, how important is this in your strategy and do you have any tips for other fighters looking for that edge.

Tito Ortiz : It’s hard to teach, I’ve been doing it since high school and college so I’ve been doing it for nine years now. I know what my body feels like at a certain weight. Right now I weigh 204lbs, that’s the lightest I have ever weighed because now we have to weigh in on the same day as the fight. My weight factor will not be a problem at all for Tanner, I’m not going to be heavy or anything like that. I’ll be about 205lbs for the fight. Any pro boxers or kickboxers do this. Weight cutting is the name of the game and more props to the guy’s that know how to do it. To get in shape and to really, really get in get in shape and learn how to do it, that helps you to be the best fighter and I’ll take any advantage I can get at any time.

Pooch: What effects do you think that the recent take over of the UFC will have on the USA’s top MMA event. There has been talk on the net about even more rules like no elbows and no slamming on the head although I think this is just speculation. Do you think the whole UFC set-up should stay as it is and if not what would you like to change, more money perhaps.

Tito Ortiz : The money will come. Once it gets back on pay per view, but the money will come. The rules may change, I believe in Atlantic City they allow no knees on the ground, which is understandable. Apart from that I don’t think it will change much at all. The new owners Zuffa will take this sport to another level. They have already started milling it, the UFC will be bigger then it’s ever been in the next year, guaranteed. I think this is going to happen, I think the UFC will take over boxing, it’s just a matter of time. After Atlantic City there will be shows in Las Vegas then California, its going to be all across the States. Once we get back on cable we’ll get the money we should be getting and we’ll show the public that this is a professional sport.

Pooch: So you definitely feel that this is a turning point?

Tito Ortiz : Oh for sure, there’s no doubt in my mind. We’re all going to make a lot more money and the production of the shows is going to be a lot better. Hopefully we will be looked at more as an extreme sport rather than a brutal no holds barred affair. I think people will start looking at us like athletes in the future. I mean we train like athletes. Everyday I box, I eat, I wrestle, I eat, I go run and lift then I go to bed, that’s my job. I train.

Pooch: I don’t think people appreciate the dedication that the fighters put into there sport.

Tito Ortiz : And the people who do the production for the shows. The new UFC will be more focused on the fighters and there backgrounds rather than the shows.

Pooch: Are they going to promote the fighter’s personalities more?

Tito Ortiz : For sure. My personality has already started. I have done everything on my own and I have done a tremendous job doing it, all the fighters need to start doing small stuff like that so people will start to look up to them.

Interview is paused while Tito says goodbye to his friend and training partner Chuck Liddell.

Pooch: How long is your contract with the UFC. When it expires would you like to fight in other organisations say Pride or are you looking to secure another contract with the UFC. I hear a rumour that the new owners will be looking into an open contract scheme which will allow you to fight for other companies like Pride, surely this will open up a whole new area for you to look into.

Tito Ortiz : One thing that is good about the new UFC is that there now letting fighters go to other organisations. So this could set up a Sakuraba V’s Tito Ortiz match in the future. That guy is one of the best out there, I like people who go out and put on a show, like when Sakuraba fights, people are like, "this guy is awesome." When I watch him I think he is awesome. I think he is one of the best middleweights right now. I know I can beat him, it’s just a matter of putting that match together. My UFC contract goes on for another year until next February. I have no problems with them. They want me to do as much as I can to promote the sport and to promote the UFC, plus they are willing to work on everything that I want to do.

Pooch: Are there a set number of fights that you have to take during that year?

Tito Ortiz : Actually my contract was for a year and a half. I have to have four fights in that time and I’ve already done one so that’s three left.

Pooch: It seems more pro fighters are slowly getting into pro wrestling, do you feel that this is a possibility once your fighting career is over.

Tito Ortiz : No, not really, not at all. I’m willing to stick to this sport until it makes really good money because when I get a little older I would like to get out of it. I want to stop doing this, go out and coach high school wrestling and helping out kids. That’s my number one thing. I hopefully will get a Tito Ortiz foundation set up, which will help kids on the street and kids from broken homes and stuff. That’s where I came from, I came from a broken home, I was always on the streets, hanging around gangs and stuff. I want to help kids and show them that there are dreams and once you accomplish goals and stuff that life gets better and better. So many kids are used to seeing murder on the TV and people getting shot, people doing drugs and everything that they think that’s a normal life and it isn’t. I think that the news does a bad job by trying to show that kind of thing to everybody. I cant stand watching the news some nights because there’s so much bad stuff happening, that’s the stuff they focus on. My job as a professional athlete is to show kids that, hey when you have a dream and you set your goals then you can achieve anything. I came from ground zero and look where I am now.

Pooch: So you are really into giving back to the community and to the kids?

Tito Ortiz : For sure. As for doing pro wrestling, they work too hard and I’m not ready to fill myself up with a bunch of drugs just to make myself huge and do all that high flying acrobatic stuff. If I’m gonna go into the ring, I’m gonna go into fight and I’m going to fight for myself and the fans, that’s my job, that’s what I do. This is my dream and I’m living it everyday.

Pooch: You have quite a large fan base here in the UK do you have anything to say to your UK fans.

Tito Ortiz : Just keep supporting mixed martial arts and the UFC, keep watching me, I’ll keep putting a show on for everybody. Thanks to all my fans in the UK, I didn’t know I had that many but I guess I do now. Its wonderful, I’m very proud to have fans in the UK. Actually on the way back from Abu Dhabi, we went to Amsterdam, that was fun, I’d never been anyplace like that before, it was really nice.

Pooch: Yea Amsterdam is cool, you’ll have to come to the UK sometime.

Tito Ortiz : Where exactly are you situated?

Pooch: I live in a small town on the west side of England, it’s a bit too close to Wales.

Tito Ortiz : I’ve been to Paris and London airport, Its different, its really beautiful out there, I met a few people, there super nice, everybody was really nice.

Pooch: I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for granting SFUK this interview and I would like to wish you all the very best with your forthcoming match with Evan and with your future in this great sport. Thank you Tito.

Tito Ortiz : Thank you very much

Back to Part 1

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Credits: Thanks to SFUKING for providing many of the questions.


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