When Tito Ortiz enters the Octagon this weekend at UFC 140 to face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, he'll set another record: most UFC appearances (26), surpassing former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes. To hear Ortiz tell it, it's yet another milestone in his career where no stone has been left unturned.
In the weeks and days leading up to UFC 140, Ortiz has been vocal about his desire to retire. Not immediately, of course, but with only two fights left on his current UFC contract (and really only one if you count this weekend) Ortiz is beginning to consider life after fighting. With his ability to compete diminishing, his injuries piling up and financial health secure, Ortiz has openly wondered whether the juice is worth the squeeze.
There isn't a bitterness to his tone. In fact, quite the opposite. In our exclusive interview with Ortiz, he looks back on his career achievements and states plainly there's nothing he didn't do that he wanted done. From winning titles to setting television and pay-per-view records, Ortiz isn't just feeling a sense of accomplishment; there's also one of completion.
We also discuss his gameplan for Nogueira, his predictions for the main and co-main event and so much more.
Full audio and transcription:
Luke Thomas: Alright, joining me right now on the McDonald's hot line, he is not only the former UFC light heavyweight champion of the world, he returns to action this weekend. UFC 140, 9 p.m. It'll actually be in Toronto, Canada. He'll be taking on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, the one and only, Tito Ortiz. Tito, how are you sir?
Tito Ortiz: I'm doing great man. Thanks for having me on the show. I appreciate it.
Luke Thomas: Happy to have you on here. Tito, I've gotta be honest, we'll go right to the big headlines you made kinda recently, kinda of sort of, suggested, hinted at that maybe you're thinking kind of towards retirement. Correct me if I'm wrong. What exactly did you say about it and how much are you thinking about retirement?
Tito Ortiz: Well, you know I have two more fights in my contract and I've gone through a lot of things in my history of fighting, surgeries and so forth. I've got three boys. I've got a family to take care of. My oldest son, Jacob, he's nine. For the first five years of his life, I wasn't there all that much because I was training nine months out of the year up at Big Bear defending world titles and I've got two more boys now that are two and a half and I want to watch them grow up. I've made my money. I've done my thing in the UFC and there's nothing else I can do in the UFC that I haven't already done.
I don't want to have any more injuries. My health, I want to make sure I'm able to throw a ball with my boys when they get older, be able to wrestle with them or run with them. My health and my family are number one for me. No money can surpass that I don't think and I've made my businesses, I've made my money doing that. Let's turn a chapter in my life and get into something a little less physical.
Luke Thomas: It's actually funny, you sound almost like Miguel Cotto sounded in the Max Kellerman faceoff with Antonio Margarito talking about how he wouldn't extend himself past that his point, that his family and his health mattered down the line. But let me clarify here, are you saying that there's no way you'd sign an extension after the two fight deal once that contract us up?
Tito Ortiz: I wouldn't say, never say, "No way." You can never say, "Never," because you never know what the UFC will offer. I watched that thing with Miguel Cotto and they don't understand. Until they fight, they will never understand what we go through as fighters. This is the most loneliest sport in the world. Fighting is nothing like no other. The mind games we play with ourselves, the physical games we play with ourselves, it's just like no other. We have our families that support us, our fans that support us, but at the end of the night, we go to bed and we think of the things on our own and it's tough, it's difficult to get through the things we do.
Physically, mentally, emotionally, to get into the cage as I do and compete, it takes a strong will to do it and after the surgeries that I've had, it takes a strong will to do it year after year after year. I'm going on 15 years of doing it. I'm the longest competing competitive fighter in UFC history. I've got a couple more fights ahead of me and I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking about retiring and I think it makes sense to retire on my own terms.
Luke Thomas: Now I want to talk about your fight at UFC 140 against Nogueira in just a moment but I've got to ask you, you've accomplished a lot, you've defended the light heavyweight title more than anyone. You were the first breakout star for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Is there anything in your judgment that you wanted to do in MMA that you couldn't, any heights that were just out of your reach?
Tito Ortiz:. Everything I did, I wanted to do. I set my goals and I achieved those goals. I think being the first to be the main event in Las Vegas, I did that. Being the first main event in California, I did that and I was very happy with things I've been so successful and big thanks have gotta go to Lorenzo Fertitta, Frank Fertitta and Dana White for giving me the opportunity to be a great fighter as I am and I've got a couple more fights ahead of me so let's just break some more goals and break some more records.
Luke Thomas: Alright so you're taking on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira this Saturday. You were originally slated to fight him at UFC Fight Night 24 and he wound up facing Phil Davis. Phil Davis, sort of notably, as Joe Rogan made a point of it during the fight, had trouble with the double, switched to the single and it was lights out for him. What I'm asking you is, you had to do one camp for him or at least a partial camp and now a full camp. How different were the two camps for the same fighter?
Tito Ortiz: I really think they both kinda mixed and matched together perfectly. It was nice to see Phil Davis try and hit the double and have pause with it and switch it up to the single and it was like taking down a kid and he took note of that and I will take note of that on Saturday night also but in July, I got Submission of the Night against Ryan Bader and I fought Rashad 10 days later and got Fight of the Night so I'm gonna try to get Knockout of the Night and finish out the year.
Luke Thomas: Talk to me about why Nogueira had so much trouble with the single. Obviously, they're different techniques, there's different ways to balance, different ways to defend, but why is it, is there something to the idea that more fighters spend more time learning how to defend the double versus the single or is the single a more potent but less-used offensive weapon?
Tito Ortiz: I think the single is less used just because guys, when they plant their feet, the double's easier to hit. Little Nog, he learned the defense when he trained at Black House, those guy know how to defend away from the fence but the single, itself, you've got to add technique into it and it takes a lot of gray area to work in collegiate wrestling and I've worked so long at doing and finishing that move and it takes the repetition of doing it over and over again and learning the defense of the head position, getting your hips in the right area and sprawling in the right area to defend the shot. There are so many different ways to take a person down with a single that it takes a lot of work to learn that.
Luke Thomas: What do you make of the state of Nogueira's boxing? Initially, there was a time there he was training with the Cuban Olympic boxing team as we saw, as a matter of fact, former trainer of them, Pedro Diaz was with Cotto, this is a reputed team. Do you believe his boxing is as good as it's always been or is he a little more trigger shy? How would you evaluate the striking today of Nogueira?
Tito Ortiz: I think his hands are as great as they were in the beginning but he's just a little trigger shy because he doesn't want to get taken down. If he exposes himself, he gets taken down and he doesn't want that to happen. That's one thing, if he exposes himself, I'm gonna take him down. If he kicks at me, I'm gonna take him down but I've been working on my hands a lot with Jason Parillo who's been working with B.J. Penn and I hit Ryan Bader with a right hand and dropped him and I would like to do the same thing to Little Nog.
Luke Thomas: I want to ask you, this is kind of funny. I wasn't planning on doing it, but now that I have you on the line, it's a great idea. You had patented, in many ways pioneered how to trash talk at least in mixed martial arts and to an effective degree. Today in the UFC on FOX press conference, Rashad Evans sort of alluded to the Jerry Sandusky scandal to make a point about the abuse he was going to inflict on Phil Davis. In your judgment, is that over the line, or is that sort of acceptable in the game of trash talk?
Tito Ortiz: It's all acceptable in the game of trash talk. If you know how to sell a fight and you say things that are true when you say them, that's when they mean the most. There's a guy that was a little better trash talker than me in Chael Sonnen and the guy speaks the truth and when you speak the truth, people listen. It's part of selling the fight because as long as you can back it up come fight time.
Luke Thomas: Tito, what expectation do you have, fighting in Canada, semi-neutral territory, right? Because you're American and he is Brazilian. What kind of crowd response are you expecting?
Tito Ortiz: I expect the crowd to go crazy. We had the open workout today and there was over 300 fans there just going nuts and I did a light workout and they were just screaming and they were pro-Tito. It was so cool to see the support I have. I have my clothing company, Punishment Athletics, and our number one seller is Canada. Go figure, I guess this is the second capital or the number one capital of the world, knowing that Vegas was the capital of the MMA world of fighting and I guess Toronto is number two because they sold out the last arena at 65,000 people but I don't think I'll have a problem with 18,000.
Luke Thomas: What are your theories on why Canada is so popular? I went to UFC 129 and I saw it with my own eyes. In your judgement, MMA is popular in Canada to an extraordinary degree. Why?
Tito Ortiz: Because people love hockey and hockey is very, very brutal too. Guys get their noses broken, their teeth knocked out and they come back and continue playing. The fans just like the aggressiveness that MMA is about and how technical the fighters truly are. They really respect the sport for what it really is.
Luke Thomas: Let's talk real quickly about the two other main fights on this card, I'd love to get your thoughts on them. In the co-main event, your fighting his brother, it's Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira taking on Frank Mir. How do you see that one playing out? Of course Mir won the first one, does he do it again?
Tito Ortiz: I think it'll be a little different. I think Nogueira will actually have had hip surgery so I think he'll be a little more healthier, little more faster and you never know. Mir could be on a tear, blast right through him and really have his card. You never know and of course the main event itself, Johnny Bones Jones versus Machida, I would have to go with Bones Jones because I want to see the guy excel. He's got a great attitude, he's a great guy, very positive and Machida just runs a lot so if Johnny gets in his face and keeps pushing the pressure, he'll win the fight.
Luke Thomas: One quick question about Machida and we'll let you go, there was a video that came out about his training methods. He had a smaller cage, he brought in Muhammed Lawal, he had put on something like 10 pounds of muscle and a whole bunch of different stuff and I'm sort of wondering what that all amounts to. If realistically, the way he attacks is sort of linear and on the outside, I don't know if he can throw kicks. If you are Lyoto Machida, what sort of options do you really have to attack Jon Jones with a 10-inch reach advantage?
Tito Ortiz: I don't know, that's a question he's gonna have to answer himself on Saturday night and that's what makes the fight so interesting. Machida coming in as a southpaw fighter and I know Johnny 'Bones' Jones switches back and forth from orthodox to southpaw and it's gonna be a good fight to watch.