For Tito Ortiz, More Injury Excuses Are Par for the Course

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For Tito Ortiz, More Injury Excuses Are Par for the Course
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Like me, there are plenty of you who years ago gave up the quest to make sense of the things that often come out of Tito Ortiz's mouth.

You know as well as I do that Ortiz is an emotional man, and those emotions can often lead to the former UFC light heavyweight champion handing out nonsensical and often downright ludicrous statements like candy on Halloween.

Don't believe me?

When Ortiz returned to the UFC in 2009 after an extended hiatus from the Octagon (and a personal feud with Dana White that teetered brilliantly on the edge between slightly interesting and completely embarrassing for all involved), he gave thanks to White, Lorenzo Fertitta and the UFC for helping build his brand. Here's what Ortiz told Jim Rome (via Bloody Elbow) prior to his UFC 140 fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira:

I'm very, very thankful for Dana and Lorenzo. I don't want to sound like a broken record but they've given so much to my family and to me as a fighter. I've given so much to make this happen. I've been with the UFC since day one. I fought with the UFC as an amateur, back in 1997, May 30. UFC 13. And I've only competed in the UFC, I've never competed anywhere else my whole career. I made my brand by the UFC. Thanks to Lorenzo and Dana for making that happen for me.

If you're looking for something a little more recent, here's what Ortiz told Bloody Elbow's Steph Daniels in January of this year. Keep in mind that this was a mere seven months ago:

Dana and Lorenzo gave me the opportunity to make a brand of myself, and I'm so very thankful to them for that. I've used that opportunity, and have been exploring every possible avenue that I can, since. Dana and I had our ups and downs, but he taught me so much, and when I look back, I look back fondly. He taught me so much as a person, and especially as a business man, and I think him being one of my managers taught me valuable things that I can use for the future with the athletes that I'm managing. I have nothing but admiration and respect for them, and great feelings for the UFC.

Fast forward to last Thursday night, when Ortiz debuted as the surprise opponent for Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in a ceremony that had all the trappings of the professional wrestling industry that Jackson and Ortiz now call their part-time home.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Part of me suspected that Ortiz might be considering a return, particularly after he tweeted a photo of the Bellator corporate office in early July. That's what happens when White decides that it's up to him to determine when a fighter's career should end. I realize that White typically has the best interest of his fighters in mind when he makes such a decision; Chuck Liddell was the first and best example. Is there a single person in the world, outside of Liddell and his immediate family, that wanted to see "The Iceman" get back in the cage and possibly have his light switch flipped off for the umpteenth time?

White lucked out. Liddell wanted to fight again, but he was willing to listen to his long-time friend. He stepped out of the cage and into the kind of no-show job that would make Tony Soprano beam with sheer glee. In exchange for quitting, Liddell drew a paycheck from Zuffa that will continue to the end of his days.

Ortiz was not so lucky. His much-publicized feud with White, which nearly resulted in a televised boxing match between the two, cast a pall over their relationship even after they patched things up and Tito returned to the Octagon. It was a rift that would never quite be completely repaired. When asked about the one thing he'd change if he could start over, Ortiz was quite revealing:

The only thing I can really think of would be the feuding with Dana. I said some things, based on emotion, and was acting in a defensive manner. I think now, I would say things a little differently, and handled things better. I wouldn't have taken things so personally.

Ortiz didn't want to retire from fighting. Despite going 1-7-1 since losing to Liddell in 2006, Ortiz clearly felt that he had more to offer the sport. If he could only heal the perpetual injuries that often popped up immediately after losing another fight, well, he would clearly be one of the best light heavyweights in the world once again.

Which is why we shouldn't have been so surprised when Ortiz walked down the entrance ramp last week. I cannot remember, for the life of me, when something happened to Ortiz that was not quickly blamed on someone else.

Lose a fight? He tore his ACL two months ago, but didn't tell anyone because he didn't want to let the fans down. Instead, he claimed to be the healthiest and deadliest he'd been in his entire career.

Lose another fight? He has a broken neck. He shouldn't even be fighting, but he's risking his life for the fans because they mean everything to him.

Or, how about this: 

I'm healthy, my mind is in a good place, I have a boss that I no longer have to fight with that has my back. I have a company that has my back. I don't want a relationship that drags me down. I have a great family that has my back. I'm in a good place mentally, physically, emotionally, like no other.

I've been thinking (about returning) for a long time. I think it was after my last surgery when I bounced back only a month after surgery. Then I got knee surgery and I bounced back after three weeks. I was like 'why is my body healing so fast?' and then I realized what was around me, all the negative was gone. I had nothing but positive around me, it was a positive mindset, you can achieve a lot of things. 

Put another way: His body was healing slowly from injuries because of Dana White and the negativity surrounding their relationship. Keep in mind that Ortiz gave this quote seven months after thanking White and the Fertittas for everything they did for him. Seven months after, Ortiz said that his relationship with White was the only thing he'd change about his career.

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Now? Ortiz was happy to be in a promotion that took care of its fighters, unlike that terrible Zuffa company over in Vegas. Ortiz followed in Jackson's footsteps, placing the blame for much that has transpired in his career at someone else's doorstep and refusing to accept responsibility.

Like Jackson—who conveniently ignores that time that White and Fertitta bailed him out of an Orange County prison after Jackson drank too many energy drinks, saw Jesus and led police on a high-speed monster truck chase—Ortiz willfully forgets the things he said about White seven months ago because they aren't conducive to his new employers.

As if to add the cherry on top of the ridiculousness sundae, Ortiz claims that his body is healing more quickly now that he's not with the UFC.

If ever there comes a time when Ortiz wonders to himself why people don't take him or the things he says very seriously, well, all he needs to do is take a look back at the words that have come out of his own mouth over the past few years. Hell, even the last seven months will paint a clear picture, or at least as clear as it's going to get when Ortiz is involved.

If Ortiz wants to fight again, that's his decision. I'd hate to see his quality of life affected 15 or 20 years down the road simply because he felt like he could still compete in a violent sport that is altogether different than the one he debuted in back in the 1990s. But it's his decision, and his alone.

I have just three requests:

That he chooses not to blame others if Jackson beats him in November.

That he doesn't come down with another broken neck or ACL injury or broken skull that would've prevented him from taking the fight if he didn't want to keep the fans happy.

And that he takes an honest-to-God truthful look at himself and decides that maybe, just maybe, Dana White had his best interests in mind in the first place.

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