Let's applaud Ortiz for stepping up

PHILADELPHIA -- At first, Tito Ortiz turned the fight down, but in the end he turned up. He said no, then he thought it over and had a change of heart. It was big for him to step up against Rashad Evans.

Was it a mistake to take the fight against a No. 1 contender on only three weeks' notice?

No, because the rewards outweighed the consequences. If Ortiz had won, we'd be discussing the merits of Ortiz versus the Jon Jones-Quinton Jackson winner.

As it turns out, he lost, and the only thing he truly lost was momentum -- and the short-lived elation the 36-year-old felt by upsetting Ryan Bader at UFC 132.

So it's no surprise that, when asked if he regretted his decision to double down on his luck, he said, "No".

"My heart hurts, but I don't regret it at all," Ortiz said. "I came in and I fought my ass off. I'm a fighter. I love fighting. When I get in that Octagon, it's like an animal in a cage. I love it. I inspire other people to be great with the things I have gone through in my life.

"You got to understand -- I was a young punk kid on the streets, and my parents were drug addicts, and I've surpassed things that I never imagined. I'm a legend in this sport; I'm an icon in this sport. I've helped pave the way for a lot of these fighters that are up here to get what they got."

After referee Dan Miragliotta called off Evans, who downed Ortiz in the second round with knees and elbows, Dana White stepped in the cage and spoke to Ortiz. What was he saying?

"I told him great fight," White told ESPN.com. "He fought a great fight and, like I said, in a lot of the interviews leading up to his last fight, [people] said Tito was going in for his execution against Ryan Bader. He ends up pulling off not just a win but an impressive win. And then he goes in there tonight against the No. 1 contender Rashad Evans, and again, I can't say enough good things about how Rashad looked tonight, and Tito fought an awesome fight. Worthy of fight of the night."

So the Ortiz revitalization lasted only a month and four days. But he felt, in the end, he had to step up for the UFC and salvage a card that at times seemed doomed. The gate was 11,583, which would have been far less had he not signed on. He picked up $70,000 for fight of the night honors, which will help repair his crashed Rolls Royce Phantom. And he had the boss singing his praises afterward.

In the end, there were consolations.

"If it wasn't for Dana and Lorenzo [Fertitta] to give me this opportunity to fight on the main stage, I wouldn't do it," he told ESPN.com. "When I step in that cage and I fight, I put my heart on the line. And sometimes my heart is bigger than my body."

That much is true. But his loss at UFC 133 should at least carry an asterisk that he had the heart to take the fight at all.

Chuck Mindenhall covers MMA for ESPN.com and Rumor Central. He can be followed on Twitter at @ChuckMindenhall.