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TITO ORTIZ DISCUSSES HIS RETURN TO THE MMA CAGE, FACING ALBERTO EL PATRON NEXT MONTH FOR COMBATE AMERICAS, HIS TRAINING REGIMEN, SHOULD WE EXPECT A BIG ORTIZ ENTRANCE, COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT, SCOUTING ALBERTO, PUTTING UP HIS UFC TITLE BELT, PRO WRESTLERS HE'D LIKE TO FIGHT, WWE/MMA CROSSOVER, KEN SHAMROCK RETURNING TO WRESTLING & MORE: COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT

By Mike Johnson on 2019-11-30 12:12:00

One of the more interesting, eclectic MMA PPV attractions in recent history will take place on Saturday, December 7th whe Combate Americas presents Winner Take All. Tito Ortiz versus Alberto El Patron with the former WWE champion El Patron facing the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and UFC Hall of Famer on Saturday, December 7th in Hidalgo, Texas. Live on pay-per-view and FITE.TV.

This interview with Ortiz was conducted on November 26th.   

Mike Johnson: The fight is coming up on December 7th.  You've been training.  So, sir, how are you doing thus far?

Tito Ortiz: I'm really good, man. This is my 18-weeks camp, and I can't wait for Friday to roll over. My 18 weeks of hard work is done, and just one week of pretty much doing a little bit more PR and get the fight on next Saturday. So two Saturdays from now.

Mike Johnson: So you're at a point in your life where you really have nothing to prove. You've been one of the more important pioneering MMA performers of all time, one of the most world-famous fighters of all time. You literally helped put UFCup the pedestal that it currently sits upon. Talk about the decision to come out of retirement and do this fight. What was in it for you that you decided, "This is the moment, this is the fight, this is the opponent. I want to come back to the cage one more time."

Tito Ortiz: Well I think this happened right after I fought Chuck Liddell last year. I came to a kind of crossroad in my life [inaudible 00:01:37] "Can I go into business, or do I continue competing?" And I had to give a close friend of mine, Randy Couture, a call. And I asked Randy straight up when I called him, I said, "Randy, when you're 43, what made you come back and want to win the heavyweight world title for UFC?" And he's like, "You know, Tito? I didn't feel like I was done. Because I felt like I had a lot more to give. You know, my body was right. You know, I would have gone on my own terms." And I felt that same situation. I was like, "Randy, thank you so much for advice. I appreciate it."  Hung the phone up with him. Went downstairs, brought my kids to the kitchen table, and I said "Boys, Dad's going to continue to fight." And they had a big smile on their face. They said, "Dad, we know you can do it. You finished Chuck really easy, and your camp was great. We love you competing, and we believe in you." And that was last year, and I started drying in the game and talking to Bellator. And it seems like some things are going to come together. And all of a sudden coming back to America and Campbell McLaren came to me, and he's like, "We have a deal for you." I was like, "Really?" I go, "But who's the opponent?" "Well, this is a part of the deal. The opponent, he wants to fight you. And his name is Alberto Del Rio." I was like, it put a smile on my face. "Alberto Del Rio? You mean the heavyweight world champion for WWE?"   He was like, "Yeah." I was like, well, I ain't going to hop on to something too quick. I want to make sure that I do my homework. And I looked him up, and I was like, "All right." He has a 9 and 5 record in mixed martial arts. So he's a fighter, he's wrestled for many years, so he's a wrestler. So you know, our styles have a little similarity, actually. Do you know what? If I'm going to test myself, and I want to push myself, and I want to still compete, and I want to entertain my fans, I think this would be an entertaining fight. I think the fans would like it. You know, it'll be crossover from WWE into MMA.  And I agreed to the fight, and it's not only just a fight, it's a one more fight after, and an ambassadorship with Combate America to help them grow their brand. And I was in. I was signed in, you know. That was back in June. In July, I started my camp, and I haven't really looked back. You know, I just kept adding my layers to myself. You know, just getting tougher and tougher and tougher.

Mike Johnson: So at 43, how does your body react to going into the fight camp compared to 10 or 10-12-15 years ago when you were younger? Like, one of the constant things that we talk about when we cover pro-wrestling is, as wrestlers get over some of the crazier stuff that they do, they shy away from and they change up their style a little bit. With MMA, it's not as easy, even as you add all sorts of different disciplines. How much does your body resist the fight camp versus how it reacted to the fight camp when you were younger?

Tito Ortiz: I think now, you know, all the way up until about 2003 and you know, I started my career back in 1997. And all the way up to about 2003, I was able to do four days, six days a week, training eight hours a day and just getting as much training as possible. Because I was trying to learn, I was still learning jiu jitsu. I was learning mixed martial arts. I was learning boxing and kickboxing. I was learning all these things. Now that I know all these things, now I'll just sharpen my tools. Now that I have no injuries, when 2003 all the way up to 2009 I had injury after injury, after injury. I mean I've had a replace ACL on my left wheel, a replace ACL on my right knee. Fifty percent of [00:05:10] was taken out of my right knee. I've had L5-S1 in my lower back fused.  I've had a C6-C7 fused I've had a T3-T2-T1-C7 disc replacement. I've had C5-C4 fused. I've had a reattached retina on my left eye. So I'm like the Million Dollar Man. I'm like the bionic man that got put back together. And there's no more injuries, and my body feels great. And I think last year before I fought Chuck Liddell, I put in an 18-week camp that I was able to actually fight, or excuse me, train for the fight. Not just train for, you know, to get in shape. I was already in shape for the fight. And I did it for this camp also, you know. I started early.  I was already in shape for the fight camp in general, and I think it helped out a lot with my timing. It helped out a lot with my sparring, because I wasn't getting tired during sparring, because I was already such in great shape. But I think on the longevity, just of my career, I've been learning this whole time. I've been getting better and better and just keeping my mind open, and just trying to be a student of the game always. And not trying to say, "Oh, this is my way, this is the way it is." But always trying to go out and try to find something newer and better, and a better way to do it, and try to push myself....And a lot of that comes with dedication. I've got to dedicate myself, you know. I can't say, "Oh, I'm getting paid money, and cool, I'm going to show up to fight." No, at the end of the day when I sit in that ring, in that cage, and get in my opponent, it's not about money. It's about my name, it's about my legacy. It's about what I bring to the table. And that's going to be an exciting fight, because I'm in shape to fight. And it's not just, I'm there to make a paycheck out of it. That's not what it's about. It's never been about that, until the fight's over. When the fight's over, I know what I negotiated, I know what I have. I just try to make it exciting for all my fans to watch, every time they watch my pay-per-views or any of my fights. It's always been exciting. Win, lose, or draw, I put on a show.

Mike Johnson: So I spoke to Alberto last week, and he mentioned the announced stipulation that if you win, you gain possession of his WWE Heavyweight Championship belt, but if he wins you relinquish possession of your UFC Championship belt. And he credited that idea to you, and he said he thought it added a nice wrinkle to the fight. And he said it was all your idea, and he wanted to really give you credit for it because he thought it was a great idea. Talk about where that idea came from, and you know, why be willing to give up something that's been such an important cherished possession of yours and an iconic symbol of your career up in the fight?

Tito Ortiz: Well, I think that that plays for both of us fighters. He's a fighter also. So both of us fighters, him having the WWE Heavyweight World Championship belt. I've always wanted one of those. I don't know what WWE fan wouldn't want one of those. I mean, not just a replica, but the real one. I've always wanted one of those. So I've had five, I have five world title belts in my office, and I was wanting to add something to it. So I was willing, "You know what? Let's make this a little more exciting." Let's make it something that I want, and I want to give, or give a chance for him to work a little harder. And it's going to make me work harder, because I get an opportunity to have another belt amongst my mantle of belts. I'm excited for it.

Tito Ortiz:So to have that Heavyweight WWE World Championship Belt, I'm just not super excited. My kids are ecstatic. They're like, "Dad, please, you better win this." So when I am training, I think about that, you know? I want to win that world title belt. And people say, "Oh, that's a fake belt. It doesn't matter. That's fake wrestling." Yeah. But he had to work his butt off to become a champion, and now all of a sudden they're just going to hand the title to somebody and say, "Here, you're a champ." No, you got to make sure that you got fans that follow you, fans that love you. And he's done that. And with my belts, you know, I've worked my butt off for it. Blood, sweat, and tears that I had to work so hard to even win that world title belt. Not only just winning it, but defending it five consecutive times. But of the longest reigning light heavyweight champions underneath Jon Jones. I've done that, but I think it just adds a little twist to this fight that makes it that much more interesting. But let me tell you, don't get me wrong. That Heavyweight WWE World Championship belt will look nice on my mantle, and I'm going to get it. I'm going to take it.

Mike Johnson: So Alberto has not fought in MMA for a number of years. He fought for Pride, obviously. He's got a great amateur background, collegian background. He fought in the Pan-American games and Greco-Roman wrestling. But for the majority of the last 10-15 years of his life, Alberto El Patron has been performing in professional wrestling. So how do you get taped to prepare for him while you are in the fight camp? What do you do to prepare or, and how much of it is, and when you step into the cage this time, is it more of an unknown quantity in terms of who your opponent is, versus facing Chuck Liddell or Ken Shamrock?

Tito Ortiz: That's what I've been doing for every one of my camps, you know? I just work as hard as possible, you know? So sparring, wrestling, jiu jitsu. I have the same guys that had been with me over the last 10 years, and I just work hard. I just work to get my hand raised. I worked to put on a show. I worked to make it exciting. I work to try to finish him as fast as possible. And that's my goal, is to finish him within the first round. And you know, I don't look at his history of being a pro wrestler. I don't look at his history of fighting in Pride and how far along he's taken off. For me, this is like fighting for a world title. I'm fighting for a world championship belt. That's my mentality. That's my attitude. And so it's not going to change on December 7th when I step in the cage against him. I think he's going to have to worry about what I'm going to bring to the table, because I'm not worried about what he's going to bring to the table.


Mike Johnson: So what do you hope fans get out of this? If fans order the pay-per-view on the 7th, or FITE.TV, or In Demand, or whatever pay-per-view provider they have. What do you hope fans get out of this fight when it's all said and done?

Tito Ortiz: To see a man that has worked really hard through his career over 22 years, who still competes at a fast-paced fight. To make it exciting for the fans to watch, to be entertained by the fight, to enjoy a great mixed-martial arts event with their family and friends and enjoy a few beers and, you know, have a little barbecue and just make it a family time. Or friends gathering. How it used to be. And I think just to make the excitement of, you know, show them how Tito Ortiz can still fight. How I can still get in the cage and compete at the pace that I'll be competing for this flight.

Mike Johnson: So AXS TV announced that they're going to be working with Combate Americas going forward, and some of their fights are going to be broadcast on AXS. AXS is also now owned by Anthem Entertainment, which also owns Impact Wrestling, which of course at times you've had flirtations with. In 2013, you were going to be a regular part of Impact, and then Bellator commitments pulled you from that. Are you kind of hoping, maybe in a roundabout way, this might lead you back into the Impact World down the line? With Combate and AXS working together, and Impact being a big part of the AXS family now?

Tito Ortiz: Well, I think winning the Heavyweight WWE championship just put some leeway to going into WWE. I know a Rey Mysterio is having some problems with Brock Lester, you know. Does he got a fellow Latino to come in and help him? There's a possibility there. So there is a possibility. Just right now, all I'm thinking about is a fight. That's first and foremost. So I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch, but I got to finish my job  on December 7th on pay-per-view.


Mike Johnson: You have a long history with Ken Shamrock, and he's returned to professional wrestling. What's your thoughts on Ken getting back in the pro wrestling game? And is that something that as a wrestling fan excites you with your history of him? Or is it something that's not even on your radar?

Tito Ortiz: Not really on my radar, but I did see his first match and, you know, congratulations to him. You know, if he's able to make money and support himself and his family, and it's through professional wrestling, kudos to him. And I wish him luck for the future, that's for sure.

Mike Johnson: You mentioned that you've got one more fight on your contract after this. Is there maybe another wrestling dream match? Another, someone who's, Combate Americas uses lots of different pro wrestlers, and they brought in several female wrestlers. There's also talk of maybe some other pro wrestlers coming in. Is there another pro wrestler that you had a dream fight, maybe a MMA against pro wrestling? If and when you defeat Alberto, you'd like to see someone else in pro wrestling try their hands at MMA and maybe stepping in the cage with you?

Tito Ortiz: You know, I've seen that Cain Velasquez is taking the step over to develop pro wrestling, so that would be a good one. Or even someone like Brock Lesnar would be another good one, and vice versa. You come over here, I'd go over there. And you know, whatever they have for my future. I'm willing to work hard and just show that hard work pays off and just dedicate myself to the fight ahead of me.

Mike Johnson: So when you step into the cage on the 7th, give us an idea of whether we should be watching for knockouts or submissions early on. Obviously you can handle both. Obviously you're well versed in both. You know, you said you wanted to take him out in the first round. Do you think a knockout or submission might be the faster way to gain victory here?

Tito Ortiz: Well first out, I'm going to see if he can defend my double leg. If he can depend on my double leg, then it may be a long night. Or if he can [inaudible 00:14:20] me, maybe it won't be a quick night. I'm going to push the pace, I'm going to push it fast. I'm going to push it quick. And I'm going to be in his face. I'm going to be in his face nonstop until the fight's over. I'm ready for 15 minutes of 100% the whole time. I haven't slowed down. I refuse to slow down. I will not slow down here, and I'm just going to push the pace. I'm the older fighter, but at the end of the day I'm the more experienced fighter, and I'm going to put on a show, as I said. I'm going to make sure I don't let down my fans. I never have to this point in my career. And nothing's going to change on December 7th.

Mike Johnson: So for fans who have only seen you on the Ultimate Fighter, or fighting in UFC, or maybe in Bellator. Talk a little bit about what makes Combate America stand out in your mind, and why you're happy to be associated with the fighting group, and why you're looking forward to being an ambassador for them going forward. In the alphabet soup of all these MMA companies that are out there in 2019, what is it about Combate Americas that stands out to Tito Ortiz?

Tito Ortiz: I mean, they stand out to me because they're giving an opportunity for all the young fighters to fight on a main stage. And they're so new that there's so many little small things to fix to make it that much better for the future of all that mixed martial artists that want to compete, making brands of themselves. And not just thinking about the company itself, you know? And I think they're giving me an opportunity of being an ambassador, of coming back in and helping with the young fighters who want to be up and coming world champions. Who want to be household names, and I think that's what it's about. Bellator has been doing that themselves.  UFC has always done that, and they kind of shied away from trying to make them household names cause they don't want to pay him more money. But you know, I think this is a big thing, is able to build fighters where they're loved and cherished by every fan. And it's important to tell the story of the fighters, because it's not told the right way sometimes. Or it's not told at all. And I think being on a different side of the coin with Combate, as an ambassador, I think I can help them on many levels to make it a little bit better. But at the same time, these fighters have an opportunity to fight on the big stage, and we're going to do that on the first pay-per-view paper on December 7th.

Mike Johnson: So obviously you've always come from a big fight background. You're also a huge pro wrestling fan. There's always been big entrances for you. I can remember being in the Meadowlands Arena in 2001 when you fought Elvis Sinosic in UFC 32. And I was curious like, what do you envision for entrances for Combate Americas on December 7th. Obviously, you know you've always had a big sort of hyped-up entrance. Are you planning something big, or do you just want to, down-to-basics, brass tacks, head to the cage and go for the fight?

Tito Ortiz: I don't know. We've talked a little bit about this, I think. Just last week I watched the [inaudible 00:17:14] and Ortiz fight. You know, I've always come out with a great entrance, and I think we're still kind of at the drawing board with some of the exact details they want to do for it. But you know, I think most important, the theatrics of the fight are important, but the fight in general will be the most important. So right now my mind is strictly paying attention and detailing on that, of just going out and performing, and performing in the way I know I can.

Mike Johnson: Well Tito, as we finish up, I want to wish you nothing but the best personally and professionally, wish you nothing but a great fight and obviously come out of the fight unhurt. Before we go, December 7th, why should anyone who's on the fence make sure that they invest some time and money and order Combate Americas that night and watch you versus Alberto El Patron?

Tito Ortiz: Well, you know, of course, an opportunity to hang with their friends, hang with their family. And a watch another Tito Ortiz beatdown. This fight is my life, is my soul. You know, once again, Thanksgiving is coming along here this week. I want to wish a happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and this is the way to be thankful for my career and buy this pay-per-view. I'm going to put my heart and soul out in that cage, and I'm going to put on this show for each and every one of my fans, as I always do. And I don't think I've ever let down any one of my fans through my 22-year career. And this is not going to change now on December 7th live on pay-per-view.

Mike Johnson: All right sir. We hope you enjoy the week, and we hope you go into December 7th prepared, and you have a great fight, and we look forward to watching it, and I thank you for the time.

Tito Ortiz: Awesome, man. I appreciate it, man. You have a great day. Thank you.

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