Many see former UFC light heavyweight champ Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz’s UFC 132 fight against Ryan Bader as his likely swan song, seeing as how most other fighters of his generation are beginning to walk away from the sport and he himself has been winless since 2006.
Having gone 0-4-1 in his last five outings, it can be assumed safely that Ortiz’s job will be on the line when he meets the young gun Bader this Saturday night. The 36-year-old knows that the pressure is on, but recently told MMAJunkie.com that he’s taking it all in stride.
“Biggest fight of my career? One hundred percent,” Ortiz said. “But every fight is the biggest fight of my career. The one in front of me is the one that can put me up and over.”
Only one of Ortiz’s last five opponents, Matt Hamill, has not been a former champion, the others (Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell) have all held the strap at one point or another. Considering that, Ortiz doesn’t necessarily believe that his record is indicative of his true place in the sport; he feels as though the fire which could take him back to the top still burns.
“I still think I have a lot more fight in me,” he said. “I’m going out on my own terms. I fight the top competitors, the top guys in the world. Every one of my fights in my last four losses I fought top guys in the world.”
Two of Ortiz’s most notable contemporaries, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, both recently walked away from the sport on the heels of knockout losses — this being a fate which Ortiz is looking to avoid.
“It sucked watching Chuck go out the way he did,” Ortiz said. “We had our bad blood toward each other, but before this company got big –- before this business got big -– Chuck and I were friends. We’re the first Team Punishment members. To see him go out the way he did, it sucked.
“Seeing Randy go out the way he did, it was heartfelt. I always looked to Randy as a sort of role model in my life. I’m doing the best I can do to be like Randy. To see him go out the way he did, it sucked.”
UFC 132 goes down this Saturday night from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Don’t forget to check back on FightLine.com that night for our live, ongoing coverage of the event.