Tito Ortiz file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
In the lead-up to his UFC 121 bout with former “The Ultimate Fighter” pupil Matt Hamill, Tito Ortiz claimed he was back training like a world champion. He did not look like one against Hamill, however, as he dropped a unanimous decision in a featured light heavyweight tilt on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Hamill showed improved boxing in the fight, keeping Ortiz at bay with a long, accurate jab. The sustained punishment began to show on the face of “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” as the fight wore on, a sight that has become more and more common later in Ortiz’s career. At the post-fight press conference, the former 205-pound champion fielded questions about his place in the division and whether or not he had anything left.
“No way I’m done. I’m not even close to the end of my career. Besides my face being a little sore, I have no problems,” said Ortiz. “I’ve got to hop back on the horse, get back to a college and start wrestling again. The hunger is there. My heart hurts, but my mind stays strong. It’s a challenge.”
Ortiz, who has not won a fight in more than four years, came out aggressively, charging Hamill and landing a head kick that looked to stun his opponent. The Team Punishment founder could not capitalize, however, and after the first few minutes, it was all Hamill.
“I thought I had him hurt in the first round, and I should have pulled the trigger,” said the former champion. “I’m proud of myself for just competing against Hamill.”
A semi-finalist on Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Hamill used his hands to set up several beautiful takedowns. Once on the floor, Ortiz had no answer for Hamill’s ground and pound, absorbing sustained punishment from his back.
“I was a few steps behind. I made a few mistakes. I didn’t defend his takedowns the way I wanted to. My future is back in the gym. I have to do the work,” said Ortiz. “I want to prevail. It sucks having losses, but I’m the type of person to suck it up and continue. I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and I still have a lot more in me. I’ve got to get back to wrestling. I’ll be back 100 percent.”
In an effort to extend his career, Ortiz, 35, has undergone several major surgeries, the most recent of which was an operation on his neck in March.
“These last few years, I’ve been through a lot. A lot of people would have quit. I don’t quit,” said Ortiz. “I’m going to continue on fighting. I let down my fans, the UFC, [UFC President] Dana [White].”
Ortiz was asked about the viability of a third match with fellow former champion Chuck Liddell. Previously open to the idea, he was far more reserved following the loss to Hamill.
“It’s all in Dana's hands,” said Ortiz. “Understand that Liddell is a friend of mine. Your health is what matters. Hopefully, he doesn’t come back.”
White echoed his statements from the pre-fight conference, asserting that there would be no Octagon return for “The Iceman,” against Ortiz or otherwise. Liddell has lost five of his last six bouts, four of them by knockout.
“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.”
Ortiz finds himself in a similar position, having lost four of his last five in the Octagon. White was non-committal when it came to his future in the promotion.
“Tito didn’t look absolutely horrible,” White said, “but he’s lost four out of five, so I don’t know. We’ll see.”