Heading into his third fight against Chuck Liddell, former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz made it clear that was he was seeking “redemption” from his previous losses at the hands of his arch-rival.
A little less than five minutes into their fight, that’s exactly what Ortiz got when referee Herb Dean peeled him off of an unconscious Liddell.
For Ortiz (20-12-1), this not only gave him his first win over his fellow UFC Hall of Famer, but also marked his fourth win in his previous five bouts. For Liddell (22-8), it marked his first professional fight since retiring from competition in 2010.
During the scrap, Liddell’s seven years away from the cage were apparent as Ortiz evaded almost every attack with ease before crumpling him with a violent right hand.
Looking back, Ortiz, who fought nine times since Liddell’s initial retirement, isn’t so sure his opponent should have even accepted the fight.
“If I was his manager, then no,” said Ortiz when asked he would have let Liddell sign on for the fight. “I would have told Chuck, ‘No, let’s get you an ambassador job. Let’s promote your name and get you to signings and do other means of making money.’”
However, even after dismantling him with ease, Ortiz still isn’t willing talk Liddell back into retirement.
“You can’t hold someone back,” said Ortiz. “If they feel something they want to do and they want to fight and continue to fight, then you’ve go to let them walk out on their own.
“So, If he still wants to fight, then let’s find him an opponent. Let’s find him someone that isn’t a Tito Ortiz.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Chuck. If wants to compete, then let him compete. Maybe not as a main event, of course. But let’s find him someone that’s a tune-up for him, because I’m not a tune-up fight.”
As for what what changed during the 12 years between his last fight with Liddell and this final bout, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” immediately brought up the evolution of his “maturity” as his greatest weapon to defeating the shadows of his past, both inside and outside of the cage.
“I matured a lot as a person. I matured a lot as a father, I matured a lot as a fighter,” said Ortiz. “I went through seven years of hell trying to help somebody and it took me almost seven months of therapy with my therapist to help me realize I can’t save my mom. He said, ‘You know what Tito? Stop trying to save your mom, go find someone to save you.’”
Pointing to his girlfriend, former UFC Octagon girl Amber Nichole, an emotional Ortiz credited her for pulling him out of the darkest moments of his life, which included a separation from the mother of his twins boys, Jenna Jameson, as well as his volatile relationships with his estranged father and UFC president Dana White.
“As a fighter you’ve got to have a solid home,” said Ortiz. “You’ve got to have a solid person that has your back and not coming home to someone saying that, ‘You’re a piece of shit dad and you’re a piece of shit fighter.’ When someone says you’re a piece of shit for such a long time, you start to believing it. I will not live in a negative life like that ever again.
“I went through a divorce and I was being smashed by the president of the UFC. He was always bashing me and always saying stuff. It was hell. That’s why I walked away in 2013. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.”
For Ortiz, his most recent outing also marked the second time he’s ended his planned retirement.
Initially, he appeared ready to walk away form the sport following his loss to Forrest Griffin at UFC 148 in 2012. However, one year later fans saw Ortiz come out of retirement to step into the Bellator MMA cage. But after amassing a record of 3-1, which included a failed attempt to capture the promotion’s light heavyweight title, Ortiz announced his retirement once again following his victory over Chael Sonnen in 2017.
The thrill of conquering the ghost of Liddell ultimately proved to be too great, as Ortiz climbed out of retirement. But now, with his demons behind him, Ortiz revealed that fans shouldn’t expect another comeback anytime soon.
“Nobody. I’m done,” said Ortiz when asked who he wanted to fight next. “My son says, ‘Dad, I don’t want you to fight anymore.’ So, maybe I’ll listen to my kids. They want dad back.”