In this three-part blog, former UFC champion Tito Ortiz discusses training, overcoming obstacles and what you can expect when he collides with fellow contender Ryan Bader on July 2 at UFC 132. For Part 1, click here.
I’ve done over 35 interviews about my UFC 132 fight with Ryan Bader; I also did a SportsNation chat with ESPN.com readers on Thursday, and I want to thank the fans for logging on and talking with me; there was a lot of positive energy and I appreciated it after a hard training session in the gym.
Being 36 and at the stage of my career I am at, doing all these interviews make you look back on your career. Some people are saying I am in a reflective mood but I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and with me what you see if what you get.
Sometimes, I feel like I have been doing this forever and sometimes it seems like only a couple days ago I was sitting in an Augusta, Ga., dressing room waiting for my first ever UFC fight …
It was May 30, 1997 and I’d signed to fight at UFC 13: Ultimate Force against Wes Albritton. I remember looking across the room and going “Wow -- that’s Randy Couture, isn’t it?” I made my debut the same night Randy made his, but I knew who he was because he was a big deal in wrestling. I remember that like it was yesterday, but I’ve been through so much and done so much since that night where I got my first UFC win …
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in the sport and I’m also proud of the part I’ve played in helping the sport to grow into the monster it is today.
As I said in my first column, I’m not going anywhere yet but once I do retire, I’d like to stay in the sport which I’ve dedicated my life to. I love the sport and the UFC and I think I can continue to make a big contribution to both outside of the Octagon, just like I have been doing for years.
I know this sport from all sides. I’m a fighter, a headliner and a champion. I’ve trained champions. I’ve run training camps with the best fighters in the world. I’ve pushed for better acceptance for the sport. I know the media side. I’ve developed my own brands within MMA … I think I’ll always have a lot to offer this sport. This sport and my family are my life and it is always going to be like that.
Doing it for the money?
I’d like to talk about a couple of the things I read online about me and this UFC 132 fight with Ryan Bader. One of the things that has been said is that I’ve taken this fight “for the money.”
First off, I am a professional fighter. I “do this for the money” like a teacher shows kids how to do math for money. This is what I do to support myself and my family. I have three sons who I love more than life itself. They are getting the father and all the opportunities that I never had, and my career is making that possible.
Sure, I’ve fought the UFC very hard to get paid what I think I am worth. Yes, I think fighters should be paid whatever they can get, because they are the one taking risks in the Octagon.
But fighters who really only care about getting paid don’t fight in the Octagon like I do. I never stop trying to win, I never go in there just to pick up a paycheck and no one can show me a single fight where I did that. Whatever I had, hurt, not hurt, whatever, I gave 100 percent. Whatever I had on the night I left it in the Octagon and that’s something I am proud of.
I want to be paid but -- once the contract is signed -- I’ll still go out there and promote the hell out of the fight and then I’ll fight as hard as I can in the Octagon.
I think even my critics will admit that …
Bader -- bigger, stronger, badder?
I’ve got nothing against Ryan Bader. I respect him and his skills. I have no doubt he’s going to win the belt one day; he’s got heavy, heavy hands and could have finished a lot more people if he used his punches differently. He’s got some good kicks and his takedowns are very good. He’s very powerful too but my strength is exactly where I want it to be and I will match him for strength, believe me.
But Bader made a mistake saying I am a stepping stone back to Jon Jones. I understand why he said it. When I was 28 I felt indestructible too and I was saying a lot of things about what I was going to do too. But I’m not a stepping stone to anyone. No one has ever had an easy fight against me and he made a mistake in saying that I am a stepping stone. Maybe it was a figure of speech, but even if it was it was a little disrespectful to a former world champion.
Bader is coming off the first loss of his career. He now knows what it is like to have his takedowns stopped. That tested his will and, on that one night against Jones, he showed me that he panics when he can’t bully people around with his wrestling. He won’t be able to bully me on Saturday and his will is going to be tested again!