Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz will be returning to the Octagon this weekend after a near year-long, injury-induced hiatus from competition. Ortiz will take on former student Matt Hamill, whom he coached on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. Ortiz recently spoke with USAToday about the fight and about what it means to him to fight again in the UFC.
“I’m just happy to be fighting back in the UFC and to continue my career,” Ortiz said. “When I get a world title back around my waist and get Ws behind my back, I’ll be back in main event, co-main event status. Until that time happens, I can just sit back and continue to fight my way up to the top.”
Ortiz will need to get past “The Hammer” before he can start looking at getting his old belt back and “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” knows that he will face a stiff test in fighting his former charge.
“I have a lot of respect for Matt Hamill,” Ortiz said. “He’s a great fighter, very, very tough and very talented. … He’s 4-0 in his record of his last four fights, and I really think I have my hands full. I’m excited for this challenge, just to prove to everybody that I’m still a force to be reckoned with in the 205-pound division. I’ve seen something special in Matt since day one on The Ultimate Fighter Season 3. I’ve seen a guy who had just a wrestling base, but learned really, really quick. I still support the guy, but at the same time, this is business, and no more than that. That’s what’s going to make this fight so exciting. This is teacher versus student.”
Though he has kept pre-fight hype mostly bereft of insults and character assassination, Ortiz did point out that Hamill is victim to several technical flaws which he plans to expose come fight night.
“Personally, I’ve seen not much,” Ortiz said of Hamill’s progression as a fighter. “I’ve seen him kind of dwindle a little bit. The speed has gotten a lot slower, but his stand-up game’s gotten a little bit better. I still see a lot of mistakes in his game that he can get better on. I watch his last fights, and I just see little mistakes that I’m going to capitalize on, and when it’s fight time, I’m going to expose those weaknesses and I’m going to get my hand raised.”
Ortiz and Hamill will battle it out this Saturday night on the main card of UFC 121 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. UFC 121 will also play host to Octagon newcomer and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields, who will be debuting against Martin Kampmann in a welterweight tilt. The main event of the evening will see UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar taking on Cain Velasquez in defense of his UFC heavyweight strap.