The answer to whether Tito Ortiz should be fighting anymore will be provided by the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” himself.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight champion “retired” upon closing in a 1-7-1 skid, during which he fought through a neck injury and other ailments, otherwise known as the aging process.
Since then, he’s ended what he called a “toxic” relationship with former porn star Jenna Jameson, won a fight for the Bellator organization and landed a Saturday night main event in San Diego against former UFC contender Stephan Bonnar.
“It’s about being happy. … I’m good, home is nice, training’s fun, I’m not dreading injuries, the mental games of my relationship are over,” Ortiz said. “I know I can be the Bellator champion. I’m energized. I want to fight. And this is a grudge match.”
The 39-year-old Ortiz (17-11-1) is coming off a first-round arm-triangle choke victory over Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko in a May light-heavyweight bout.
In the Valley View Casino Arena bout against the 37-year-old Bonnar (15-8), to be televised by Spike TV at 6 p.m. Saturday, Ortiz will face for the first time a man who fought and lost to some of the UFC’s best, including Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Forrest Griffin.
Ortiz said he barely knew Bonnar while they were in the UFC, but later chafed while moving to Bellator and hearing Bonnar claim Ortiz was fighting only for money that Jameson took from him, and that his multiple trips to support U.S. troops overseas were just for public relations purposes.
“When he talks about my family, my fans, says my appearances for the Marines are a P.R. stunt, it’s personal,” Ortiz said. “When you start talking lies, I’ve lost all respect.”
Ortiz’s often-strained feelings toward the UFC have returned, too, he said.
“Look at the guys working for Bellator now, [fellow UFC veterans] Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Wanderlei Silva, ‘Rampage’ Jackson. It’s about not getting the respect you’ve earned,” said Ortiz, a member, along with Bonnar, of the UFC’s hall of fame.
“Fighting injured plenty of times … I fought Forrest at UFC 106 with a fractured orbital bone and sucked it up [through a split-decision loss]. I fought with a chance of me getting paralyzed. … I felt like I was getting stepped on, like fighters are just commodities.”
Moving on, Ortiz said he hopes good things for Jameson, whom he split with 19 months ago, and is focused on “not having negatives in my life.”
“When fighters get older, it’s not that they always won’t be good,” Ortiz said. “It’s a mind-set. Stay confident, positive, solid. The proof was in my last fight. I got right back in the gym, doing five, six good rounds nonstop. I’m in great shape. I don’t party anymore.
“I take my career very seriously.”