One of the story lines heading into UFC 121 this weekend is the age-old trope of teacher vs. student, with Matt Hamill and his The Ultimate Fighter season 3 coach Tito Ortiz playing the respective roles. Throughout the lead up to the fight things between the two stayed respectful and amicable until Ortiz appeared on Inside MMA and made comments of highly questionable legitimacy concerning his deaf opponent’s susceptibility to knockouts based on the “soft head” and “no equilibrium” with which his deafness has left him.
The comment’s angered the deaf community as a whole and, according to the conversation that Hamill trainer Duff Holmes recently had with MMAJunkie, also got “The Hammer” fired up.
“I liked it because I like to light a flame under his ass,” Holmes said.
“The minute [Ortiz] talked about the deaf community, that’s really personal to Matt, and Matt really looks out for the deaf community as a protector.”
For his part, Hamill told MMAJunkie that he is used to this kind of derision and just wished that Ortiz’s comments fell only on his shoulders and not those of the deaf community.
“A lot of people made fun of me when I was a kid,” Hamill said. “‘Who’s that deaf kid?’ He can talk any trash that he wants to say. That’s [just] business. I was hoping that it was more trash about me than the deaf community.”
The 2001 Deaflympics freestyle wrestling gold medal winner said that, despite what is said or done by his opponents that draws his ire, he will never return fire or do anything other than act respectfully.
“I’m a friendly person regardless if [a person] hates me or not,” Hamil said. “I’ll always be friendly. For example, everybody thought I hated (Michael) Bisping, (who I fought at UFC 75), and I do not. I have a good heart. After the fight, we can be back to friends.”
Hamill knows what’s at stake for him come Saturday night and having a shot at improving his status in the 205-pound division with an intriguing match up over a former coach is enough to keep him motivated, no trash talk necessary.
“It would help me boost my career,” Hamill said. “He’s a five-time world champ, and it’s an honor to fight Tito, my former teacher. So it could be a great fight. Nothing is going to be easy. I’m the only fighter that’s fighting against their coach. So it could be interesting.”
Hamill and Ortiz will square off this weekend at UFC 121, which is going down at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.