The Bad Boy is Back! Ortiz Returns to the UFC
It was said that the bad blood between UFC President Dana White and former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz ran so deep that reconciliation wasn’t even a remote possibility. But after a twitter exchange between the two surfaced recently, fans began speculating that a return to the Octagon wouldn’t be too far off for ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.’ On Friday, White made it official, announcing Ortiz’ re-signing with the UFC during a media teleconference.
“Tito and I have history that pretty much everybody knows,” said White. “We have put all our differences aside, have squashed everything, and we’re ready to move forward. Tito Ortiz is still a guy that fans want to see fight, he just had back surgery, he’s getting back into training, he feels good and he’s ready to compete in the 205-pound division and take a shot at the title again. And Tito Ortiz will retire in the UFC.”
“I think time really cures everything,” said Ortiz. “Dana came to me and was a man of his word. He apologized to me for the things that he did prior, and for me, it (returning) was about competition. My fans deserve the best Tito Ortiz.”
One of the sport’s greatest light heavyweights, the 34-year old Ortiz (16-6-1) reigned over the 205-pound weight class from 2000 to 2003 and still holds the organization record for most successful title defenses with five. A California native who has been in the Octagon with the likes of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Evan Tanner, Frank and Ken Shamrock, and Guy Mezger, Ortiz has also posted a 1-1-1 mark against the last three men to hold the UFC light heavyweight title, beating Forrest Griffin in 2006, battling to a draw with Rashad Evans in 2007, and dropping a decision to current champ Lyoto Machida in 2008, a bout which Ortiz almost pulled out in the waning seconds with a triangle choke.
“Forrest Griffin, I beat; Rashad Evans I thought I’d beat, but they called it a draw; Machida, I gave him the best fight anybody’s given him to this point and I almost submitted him. So me coming back at a hundred percent, everyone in the light heavyweights better watch out because I’m coming full force and I want to get that world title around my waist again.”
Ortiz is currently rehabbing after back surgery in October of 2008. It was an injury that Ortiz admits had him questioning his fighting future.
There was a question there for the first month,” said Ortiz, who admits to battling various back injuries since 2003. “I was having some serious pain after surgery. I think the painkillers kinda made me forget about it a little bit, but when I would get out of bed, it was hard and there were some times I had to wake up with tears in my eyes just because of the pain. But one month turned into two months, two months into four months, then six months later I had no more soreness, no more pain, and then I started doing rehab. Now we’re back to where I was before I started having back problems. Now it’s just the mental focus of being positive and the way Dana’s treated me so far, it’s positive reinforcement and I’m excited to back in the UFC.”
Needless to say, with his back injuries in the past, the reconciliation with White, and a settled personal life thanks to the birth of twin boys with girlfriend Jenna Jameson, Ortiz is at peace and ready to make a run at the top again.
“I think the last time I was at peace like this was when I was the champion and didn’t have back problems,” he said. “Dana being a man of his word and Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta being as forgiving and generous as they have been, I’m very, very thankful. I’m thankful for the people around me, my camp, my beautiful girlfriend Jenna, my two beautiful sons, and for my fans. The fans have stuck with me no matter what. Well, I’m back home, and I’m back where I need to be.”
Ortiz’ long-awaited return is expected in November/December of 2009, with speculation centering on a possible bout against UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman.