At 40, Tito Ortiz is still after an MMA championship

Not only is mixed martial arts legend Tito Ortiz still around, he’s fighting for a title.

The “Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” whose rise helped bring Ultimate Fighting Championship to mainstream sports consciousness, pushed hard for what might be his last shot at glory.

On Saturday, on Bellator MMA and Glory kickboxing’s unique “Dynamite 1” card at San Jose’s SAP Center, Ortiz faces undefeated Bellator middleweight champion Liam McGeary.

Spike TV will televise the live card at 6 p.m. PDT.

Ortiz, who turned 40 in January, relied on his ground-and-pound abilities to participate in some of the most prominent fights in UFC’s first decade, including his bouts with Chuck Liddell, Ken Shamrock and Randy Couture.

After rehabilitating through back and neck pain and some personal difficulties connected with his former relationship with adult film star Jenna Jameson, the former UFC light-heavyweight champion hopes to notch one more title at an age when most fighters are long past their prime.


And, yes, many believe Ortiz might already be there, too.

“Not to be selfish, but it’s about me winning a world title,” Ortiz said.

His pursuit comes at a special event. MMA bouts and kickboxing fights will take place inside the same venue, with a cage and ring, side by side, for the first time in combat sports history.

It’s the creation of Scott Coker, the former promoter of the now-defunct Strikeforce MMA organization, that spawned UFC standouts Ronda Rousey, Robbie Lawler, Luke Rockhold and Dominick Cruz. UFC purchased the company in 2013.

“Scott has definitely put something spectacular together for the fans, with the show having MMA and kickboxing together on one card, with a four-man tournament and me against Liam in the main event,” Ortiz told The Times this week at L.A. Live.

“I could have had an easier fight, but I begged Scott for this fight. I begged [Bellator broadcaster] Viacom … for this fight. I’m faster, I’m stronger and my cardio is 10 times better.

“I have nothing against Liam. I think he’s a great champion and a great guy, but he’s holding something that I want and it’s that world title. I’m ready for this. My mind is ready; my body is ready. I wouldn’t have asked for this fight if I didn’t believe I could win.”

The charismatic Ortiz deserves credit for igniting the blazing popularity of UFC, but he left the organization after a falling out with bombastic promoter Dana White.

“I’ve dreamt about the success of MMA years and years ago. I remember in 2001-2003 when I reigned as champion, I just knew that the sport would be huge. We just needed to educate the fans on what the sport was truly about, and when we came out with ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ on Spike TV, we did that. Now, looking back and it’s 18 years later and I’m still competing for a world title, this is the finish to my life story, my career, my movie, and I’m writing the script.”

The former world champion seems to have found contentment after all the drama.

“I’m really happy,” Ortiz said. “These last two years of my life have been amazing. I have a wonderful partner in my girlfriend, Amber Miller, which allows me to concentrate on my training. I have nothing to worry about besides my training. My boys have an amazing stepmother, and if my kids are happy, I am happy. And when I’m happy, I’m dangerous.”

On the side, Ortiz is the manager for dominant female fighter Cris “Cyborg” Justino, whose success has many fans begging for a showdown with unbeaten bantamweight champion Rousey.

Many believe Justino is her only clear threat. But Justino fights at 145 pounds for the Invicta organization, and White has said she’ll need to fight someone else at 135 pounds before he’ll arrange a fight with Rousey.

“Our management is trying their best to put that fight together, but Rousey seems like she doesn’t want it to happen, so it’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens,” Ortiz said.