A true competitor is sometimes forced to be sidelined and not compete, but when an athlete truly has a thirst for competition they will find a way to compete no matter what.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz is truly this sort of competitor. Ortiz has fought through numerous injuries, surgeries and set backs in his personal life because he truly loves to compete.
It was our pleasure at Bleacher Report to speak with Tito soon after he was forced to pull out of his March 26 bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
UFC president Dana White had previously stated that this bout with Nogueira was Tito's “last chance” fight.
After the injury occurred, Tito stated, “I still see that there will be a fight for me, this is something that happens to all fighters it just so happens that mine is on a bigger stage.”
Dana had originally stated that after Tito's loss to Matt Hamill at UFC 121 that we would more than likely not see Tito again.
When asked how he changed Dana's mind Ortiz admittedly told us, “I said give me one more shot, you have to understand over the past four years I've fought through injuries and I wasn't 100 percent.”
Ortiz's recent injury was incurred during the preparation for the Nogueira fight when Ortiz and a sparring partner had an unplanned collision.
“We were both throwing right hands and we collided heads," said Ortiz. "The top of his head hit the bridge of (my) eyebrow and he split me open to the bone. I realized I had a concussion after receiving 22 stitches. I went to Las Vegas and they did a CAT scan and an MRI and there was a little bit of frontal lobe damage from the headbutt.”
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis has stepped up to replace Ortiz against Little Nog in their March 26 bout.
“Rogerio has trained to fight a wrestler, so we have to see if Phil Davis has enough submission defense and he can handle the half-guard because that is Rogerio's number one thing and that's what I worked on," said Ortiz. "You need to secure your take downs and keep the top position and try to finish him. (Nogueira)”
In the spirit of charity and competition Ortiz has agreed to participate in the 2011 Toyota Pro/Celebrity race.
On April 16, Ortiz will buckle up in his race-ready Scion Tc to race against other celebrities and sports figures. Some of his opponents include actor Djiamon Hounsou (Gladiator, Blood Diamond) Anthony Anderson (Transformers, The Departed) and Jillian Barberie (Good Day L.A.).
“I'm a fast driver anyways and I'm actually really good behind the wheel anyways” said Ortiz.
This race is particularly important to Ortiz due to the fact that it will the proceeds will be donated to the Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach, Calif. When Ortiz previously was a contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice, Ortiz's charity of choice was St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
When asked how important it is to give back to children Ortiz answered, “Very very important, It's all about the youth. I can't even imagine how it would be to not be able to take care of my children if they had an illness. Doing this was the least I could do and the fact that the Long Beach Grand Prix is letting me donate money to a charity like this is very important.”
“These are things that people don't understand that I do. People still look at me with a bad-boy image and they don't realize outside of the cage that I'm an average guy who tries to work hard for our youth. I think that's why god puts us on this earth to do, to help society and people around us.”
Ortiz, unlike most professional MMA fighters, gave a realistic time frame for how much longer he plans to compete.
“Hopefully, just two to three years because I don't want to be fighting when I'm 40 years old," said Ortiz. "I just have to make sure I leave at the highest that I possibly can in the UFC and go on to something better.”
Ortiz keeps himself busy in multiple areas, as owner of the Punishment Athletics clothing line, Team Punishment's MMA team and acting on TV and film, Ortiz is certainly securing himself a future passed fighting.
When asked which endeavor he would like to pursue most after his fight career is over, Ortiz said, “I would love to approach acting full force just like I did with fighting, but we'll see what the future holds.”
Placing an importance on family, giving back to the community and having a level headed attitude on his approach to his future, Ortiz proves that it is not only important to pay attention to what the fighter does inside the cage, but often how he conducts himself outside of the cage.