In this blog, former champion Tito Ortiz discusses getting an unexpected call from UFC President Dana White, his thought processes and how he came to accept a short-notice bout with Rashad Evans at UFC 133.
I didn’t expect to be doing another fight blog quite so soon – but then I wasn’t expecting a call from Dana White last Monday night while I was in bed, drinking a cold beverage, watching a movie.
Dana got right to it and said: “Phil Davis is out of the Rashad Evans fight. Do you want the fight against Rashad?”
The fight is at UFC 133 on Aug. 6 in Philadelphia. I would have less than three weeks of camp to fight to No. 1 contender of the light heavyweight division.
Lying in bed, a beverage in my hand watching a movie and still basking in the victory I’d had over Ryan Bader at UFC 132 just a few of weeks ago … let’s just say fighting on Aug. 6 wasn’t something I was ready to say “yes” to there and then.
I told Dana that I had a ton of business stuff to take care of with Punishment Athletics and my new Punishment Training Center and, after the Bader fight, really wanted to spend some family time.
Dana said he and the UFC really needed me to step up, but that he understood. We hung up and I went back to the movie and my beverage. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunity Dana had just offered me.
The fight was still on my mind when I went to sleep and I had a dream about it. I woke up at 8 a.m. the next day, had some business to take care of, and as soon as I took care of that all I could think about was what I’d turned down the night before…
’Like a movie’
The whole Ryan Bader win on July 2 was like living inside a movie. From the moment my music hit at the MGM Grand Garden for me to walk to the Octagon, to me leaving the arena after the postfight news conference, it was like a Rocky movie. Everything went so perfect, it was a great night in my career and I’m still excited by what I accomplished and how it gave the people around me something to show for their support of me over.
I’d beaten a top-5 guy in one round and, yeah, some people in that position would have listed off all the people who they had just proven wrong. But that wasn’t in my heart. I’m trying to live a very positive life and I wanted to list the people who I proved right. I was so excited for my team, my family and my fans that we had a big win to celebrate.
Honestly, I was surprised that I beat Bader the way I did. I had mentally and physically prepared for a 15-minute war and for my strength and will to win to get me a decision after a very nasty fight. But as soon as I landed that right hand I knew Bader was out.
He admitted that he “woke up and was in a guillotine” so I kinda KO’d and submitted him in one fight. I apologized afterward for hanging onto the choke for a couple of seconds too long. I didn’t mean to. I’ve never pulled down so hard on any submission in my life. I knew it was deep, I knew a lot of wrestlers have real trouble with that submission, and I squeezed so damn hard … that was five years of setbacks, of hopes, dreams, determination, ridicule, self-belief and pride all coming out into one chance to tap this guy out.
When I did my “grave-digger” celebration for my fans it was because it had been so long since they got to see it. After I finished it, the emotion of the win hit me like a wave. It was a great moment in my career.
It was like a dream … and now two weeks later I was getting offered another dream fight against the No.1 contender. I changed my mind on wanting to fight at UFC 133.
Calling Dana back
I spoke to my partner and we talked about what it meant for us as a family and for my business. Being a fighter means being selfish sometimes. When I am training, it has to be about ‘me, me, me.’ I hate being selfish when I have a family but the reality of fighting and of being a champion is that you have to put yourself first when you prepare for battle -- because no one can do you a favor or help you once the Octagon door shuts. During the time preparing for a fight, training has to be top priority or you will suffer for it.
But I’ve got a great support system around me. They all supported me; so I called Dana back. He was a little surprised to hear from me. I asked if he’d managed to get another [replacement] for Rashad. He said no, and I said: “I know you need me, and I’m in. I am stepping up to fight Rashad – I’m going to beat him.”
The thought process
My thought processes were pretty much ‘Dana and [UFC owner] Lorenzo [Fertitta] are the reason I’ve got my brand in the first place. Now they are asking me for a favor but, really, it isn’t a favor it is an opportunity they are offering me.’
For the last six years I’ve had problems with the UFC and now it is time for me to stop being the bad boy and help out when they need me. I’m really grateful to Dana, Lorenzo and also Rashad – because Rashad took this fight at just as short a notice as me and I appreciate him agreeing to the fight.
Follow Ortiz on Twitter @titoortiz and at www.punishment.com