–Kenny Rice

Tito Ortiz has seen the signs, hundreds literally, over the years. Ones that praised him, ones that taunted him as he walked toward the cage. He has been able to look beyond them all, focusing instead on those figurative ones ahead, be it an opponent, or especially, a business opportunity.

The sign above the door of his Orange County, CA Punishment Training Center offers the perspective: “Prepare for the Worst and the Best Will Happen.” An addendum could read “And even when you weren’t ready for the worst, things will get better.”

The latter is most appropriate for Ortiz right now. He is at the “happiest place in my life,” after ending a tumultuous and much publicized seven year relationship with adult film star Jenna Jameson, and being granted full custody of their twin boys. The “Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” appears as peaceful and content as ever, while he trains for a surprising return to fighting against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on Bellator’s first PPV offering November 2.

“My family life is in order for the first time in seven years. It is such a relief. You forget how normal this can and should be after years of being on a roller coaster of emotions,” he calmly reflects as we sit down for a future Inside MMA interview. “It’s peaceful when I go home now. My boys come by the gym after school, we are just enjoying each other so much. It’s a different place.”

For now he is excited to be back in the same place, training camp. July 7, 2012 versus Forrest Griffin was his farewell to the UFC, he handpicked his opponent. It was, though in defeat, the way he had chosen to go out– still a viable draw in the UFC, still fighting champs and ex-champs. That was that, time to focus on the successful business career including his Punishment brand athletic wear and his new sports management agency, Primetime 360 where he signed superstar Cris Cyborg as a client.

With Ortiz nothing is happenstance. His flare for the dramatic led to his first title shot against Frank Shamrock at UFC 22, he lost. But unlike many today who talk and preen their way into such opportunities, Ortiz had talent to become a champion, taking the light heavyweight belt a few months later in April 2000 beating Wanderlei Silva and beginning a three year reign in the division. Thriving on the controversy of being loved or being hated, he was known and that was the goal. The same approach came in carving out a niche away from the cage, leading to sitting in the boardroom with Donald Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice,” and knocking out several MMA stereotypes the general public had in the process.

This deal to headline Bellator isn’t some need to fill an ego void being out of the fighting spotlight, though it is a factor. Mostly it is another calculated move for more, lots more he hopes.

“There are so many opportunities being associated with Viacom (the global media power and Bellator partner). It opens the door for movies, pro wrestling, a complete package of career moves that is far more than just this one fight.”

That Viacom door is large in the industry with MTV Films and TV, Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and others. Ortiz is thinking two moves ahead, fully knowing the link of sports and entertainment as well as anyone who has ever stepped foot in the cage.

“It’s been that way since 1997,” he chuckles referring to the year he began his UFC and MMA caeer. “It’s just the same for this fight. If Rampage and I were just two dull guys you wouldn’t be here for the interview, nothing would’ve been written about us and nobody would care at all. But of course…”

He trails off with a half-knowing, half-menacing grin. Yes, few would care about two fighters past their prime, a 38 year old Ortiz and a 35 year old Jackson, both former UFC champs, both exiting the organization on losses. Yet each man has vociferously challenged Dana White and pretty much everyone connected with the UFC, even before they left the fold. They were born to stir things up, get noticed. They always enjoy a good tussle, verbal or otherwise. Even now this PPV event has elicited the ire of White, and Ortiz relishes the fact that he can still rile up his old manager and boss.

“Well, again if we didn’t matter why would he or anyone else be so concerned?”

And for all the business possibilities on the horizon, there is no mistake Ortiz is serious about this fight, walking around at a comfortable 218 pounds at the moment. “I feel as good as I have in a long time. My back and neck (surgeries for both) are strong again. Watch me work, there is nothing taken for granted.”

He knows Jackson well, a former training partner he met while giving him a ride in Huntington Beach, one of the few coincidences in Ortiz’ life that led to a lasting friendship.

“He had just come out from Memphis. I was driving by and saw this big man hitchhiking and gave him a lift, we’ve been in touch ever since. We talk all the time, we’ve been on this promotional tour. But as we get closer to the fight we won’t be talking much and then as it gets closer we won’t talk at all before the fight.”

The sign of a man who knows again what is in his best interest.



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