UFC light heavyweight Matt “The Hammer” Hamill toppled his former coach and MMA pioneer Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz Saturday night at UFC 121 in Anaheim, California after surviving an early surge from the former light heavyweight champ. The loss was Ortiz’s fourth in his last five fights, prompting many to question Ortiz’s future in the UFC.
“I think the fight tonight was about Tito Ortiz’s relevancy in the light-heavyweight division,” White stated at the post-fight press conference. “I don’t know the exact number, but he’s lost like four in a row. And I think we know what happens when you lose four in a row in the UFC. This is the big leagues, man.”
At the very first bell Ortiz rushed Hamill with kicks and punches that put the deaf wrestler on his heels. “The Hammer” adjusted quickly though, scooping Ortiz up off of a kick and depositing him on the canvas. Ortiz popped back up and even though he landed the higher volume of strikes for the rest of the first round, Hamill clearly delivered more damage; leaving Ortiz bleeding and swollen heading back to his corner.
“The first round, I didn’t pull the trigger,” Ortiz admitted. “I hit him with some shots, and I should have continued on.”
Hamill came out in the second looking more at ease with his striking, landing kicks and punches that looked to be slowing Ortiz. Once Hamill decided to take Ortiz down, he smothered the brash Californian and damaged with elbows and punches for the remainder of the round. The third round saw both fighters slowing their respective attacks but Hamill still held the edge in the stand up department. After Ortiz failed on a takedown attempt of his own, “The Hammer” dumped Ortiz to the ground again and rode out the rest of the round landing shots and controlling from the top position.
“It’s not even close to the end of my career,” said Ortiz. “The decision might be in Dana’s hands, but I’ve gone through some surgeries that people don’t come back. I feel great. Besides my face being a little sore, I feel fine. I have no more neck problems, no more back problems.”
Ortiz hopes to fight again in the UFC, and said that he plans to go back to his roots.
“I need to get back to wrestling. I need to get back to my roots… I’m not a quitter. I’m going to continue on. It sucks to lose because I let down a lot of my fans. I let down the UFC. I let down Dana, but I want to prevail. It sucks having losses, but I’m a person to suck it up and carry on. I’ve been in this game for 13 years. I still feel like I have a lot more in me.”
Ortiz was asked if he would still like another bout with former rival Chuck Liddell with Ortiz answering that it was “all in Dana’s hands.” White re-asserted his position that Liddell’s fighting days in the UFC were over.
“There’s no need for Chuck to come back,” said White. “He’s been a world champion. He doesn’t need the money. There’s no need.”
With the loss, Ortiz falls to 0-4-1 in his last five and hasn’t won a pro fight since October 2006, when he TKO’d Ken Shamrock. Since then, every fight he’d taken part in saw him face a man who at one point held a UFC championship, but that streak ended when he faced Hamill, a 34-year-old who has had some success but not yet established himself as a top-flight contender in the light-heavyweight division.
“I don’t think Tito looked horrible,” White said. “I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh my God, Tito looked terrible tonight.’ One of the things that is an absolute fact is I don’t care who you are, how long you’ve been around, or who you’ve beat, you have to stay active in the fight game. If you do not stay active, it’s hard to come back.”
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.