Tito Ortiz: 'Getting a win is the most important thing'
More than four years have passed since Tito Ortiz last won in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and the charismatic Huntington Beach fighter finds himself nearly a 2-to-1 underdog in Las Vegas sports books for Saturday night's light-heavyweight UFC 121 fight at Anaheim's Honda Center.
"Whatever," former light-heavyweight champion Ortiz said in a telephone conversation from his Big Bear training compound. "It's cool. I'll make my fans a lot of money."
Ortiz (16-7-1) will fight Matt Hamill, a former protege when Ortiz coached on the reality television series, "The Ultimate Fighter." Jay Rood, head of the MGM/Mirage sports book in Las Vegas, said, "All the money's coming in on Hamill."
"His wrestling is really good," Ortiz said of Hamill. "If it was a college wrestling match, I'd be in trouble, but it's not. It's a fight, and a fight where I'm going to punch, kick, knee him in the face."
Ortiz hasn't fought since November 2009, when he suffered a split-decision loss to Forrest Griffin in a UFC main event in Las Vegas.
His value has clearly dropped, as he finds himself behind a bout featuring new UFC welterweight Jake Shields, the former Strikeforce champion who'll fight Martin Kampmann before Saturday's heavyweight title main event between champion Brock Lesnar and unbeaten challenger Cain Velasquez.
Ortiz controversially backed out of a third match against Chuck Liddell, and also was involved in a TMZ-covered domestic dispute with his porn star girlfriend Jenna Jameson that brought Huntington Beach police to the couple's home.
He said he has five fights left on his current UFC contract, and at age 35, the urgency for a victory is obvious.
"I fight a little harder in O.C.," Ortiz said. "I'm trying to get my world title back, so getting a win is the most important thing. The close matches, the draw, guys running from me ... I'm tired of it. I'm going to be doing my job. I've heard a lot of smack talk, but those people saying it aren't as successful as me.
"I put on a show. UFC understands my value. I give my heart and soul."
Ortiz said Monday he was 15 pounds over the light-heavyweight limit, but argued, "That's nothing, as a wrestler I've cut weight all my life. I'm in great shape."
He'll have an opportunity to back up the talk Saturday. Another loss, and there's little choice but to side with the Ortiz haters who accuse him of spewing nothing more than empty words.
-- Lance Pugmire
Photo: Tito Ortiz. Credit: Neil Davidson / Associated Press / The Canadian Press