Tito Ortiz’s Cinderella Story came to an end almost as soon as it began.
After scoring an improbable, career-salvaging victory over Ryan Bader last month in dramatic fashion, Ortiz was riding high. Instead of laying back and savoring the win, Ortiz stepped up on a few weeks’ notice to take on top contender Rashad Evans in an injured Phil Davis’ place. Ortiz came to fight and threw his best at his fellow former champ, but it wasn’t enough in the end. Evans took what Ortiz had and came back harder, eventually stopping The Huntington Beach Bad Boy with a well-placed knee to his midsection.
“Of course,” Ortiz said at the post-fight presser when asked if he would’ve liked more time to prepare for Evans. “Like I said, I’ve gotta take my hat off to Rashad. He fought a great fight, he took his time and he didn’t run away. He stood there and fought with me and I fought back. I gave it my all. Like I said, for the first time in two fights that I haven’t been injured, I haven’t had any problems at all. I felt strong, I felt in shape…
“I fought a number one contender tonight on two weeks’ notice and I fought my a** off. Like I said, Rashad is the better man tonight.”
Ortiz enjoyed early moments of success in the fight, but Evans took the momentum in the first round and held onto until the end. Ortiz didn’t go easily when the time came, but the knee he was hit with was enough to put down most heavyweights.
“My body shut down,” Ortiz said of the shot. “My mind was saying, “Fight, fight fight.’ My body was saying, ‘No, no, no.’ What can you do? I tried to defend myself. Rashad was the better fighter tonight.
“I tried to get my body up,” he continued. “My mind said, ‘Get up,’ but my body wasn’t doing it. The ref said, ‘Protect yourself.’ I had my hands up, I tried to get up, the heart said, ‘Get up,’ the mind says, ‘Get up,’ but the body doesn’t react to it.”
Though he will likely remain a polarizing figure in the sport, it was clear by the Philly crowd’s reception of Ortiz that he’s won the hearts of many with his recent displays of true fighting spirit.