Polar Opposition


Photo courtesy of TitoOrtiz.com.

When Tito Ortiz and Lyoto Machida step into the Octagon Saturday night in Las Vegas, the audience around the world will see two completely different fighters standing across from each other.

They come from opposite ends of the spectrum, from opposite sides of the world. Their styles aren’t the same. One likes to talk trash, one likes to keep quiet. They had different upbringings. Ortiz and Machida are complete opposites.

“I’m Brazilian but my way of thinking is Japanese,” Machida said when talking about his early martial arts training with his father. “I started karate when I was four years old with my father. My father always tells me that I have Samurai blood. That I must be fight and keep strong. He’s always teaching me that in life, I have to do things by myself. I try to be somebody but it’s very difficult. Everyday when I wake up, I think that I have to live a Samurai-style kind of life but it’s difficult. You have to be honest. You have to be real.”

Ortiz wasn’t as fortunate growing up.

“I remember being a young kid growing up on the street. I was using drugs, all my friends were using drugs, and I never had any self-worth,” Ortiz said. “My parents were drug addicts and I realized that I could be in their shoes one day. I saw guys like Hulk Hogan and Muhammad Ali and I told myself that I wanted to be like those guys. I wanted to have that flamboyancy, I wanted to have that star power.”

After a brief addiction to amphetamines that nearly sent Ortiz’s life spiraling out of control, he turned his focus to wrestling, quickly finishing fourth in the California state high school championships as a senior. A California state junior college title opened the doors for Ortiz’s UFC debut. The rest is history.

“I came into this game as a young kid,” Ortiz said. “I was 22 years old, I talked smack and I backed up. But as I got older I started to see the big picture. I was the champion for four years and I defended it five times. The smack talking is cool because it hypes up the fight and all but when you wash your hands at the end of the day and you look in the mirror, you come to realize that I’m no different than anyone else, I just have a really great job.”

For Machida, this fight is a chance to live up to the hype. Many have touted him as the next great light heavyweight. With a perfect 12-0 record and wins over the likes of Stephan Bonnar, Rich Franklin, and B.J. Penn even before he entered the UFC, few can disagree.

Karate’s MMA ambassador has a chance to make himself a serious contender.

“My style is different because my karate is not normal,” Machida said. “I adapted my style to MMA. It’s important to me because no one really knows about it. No one really knows what to expect with my striking. I think that all of the guys I fought think the same thing. That I don’t have power, I don’t have punching but I don’t care because I believe in my style. I know that I can knock someone out. I believe in my training and in my team. I don’t worry about it.”

To some, the idea of going up against Ortiz can bring mixed emotions. Saturday night will bring forth Ortiz’s first fight since last summer. The way the media portrays him, one could easily think that Ortiz spends more time with his girlfriend Jenna Jameson, making movies, and attempting to be Donald Trump’s next “Apprentice” than he does in the gym.

It’s the kind of thinking that Machida is trying to stay away from.

“I know that Tito talks a lot. I prefer to be different,” said Machida. “I don’t like to talk before a fight because I know that during a fight, everything is a surprise. I don’t worry about Tito’s training either. I don’t care if he’s training hard or if he’s training light. I’m assuming that he’s training hard and going to be prepared for this fight because I know that once we get into the Octagon, he’s going to be coming hard. If he tries to take me down, if he tries to stand up with me, I’m ready to fight, I’m prepared for any situation.”

With the showdown against Machida the last fight on his current deal with the UFC and any intentions of re-signing with the promotion absent from his mind, Ortiz knows that this fight is much bigger than any he has faced in a long time. It’s a chance to go out on top, a chance to show potential suitors that at 33 years old, his best days may not be behind him as of yet.

“This fight means more than anything to me,” Ortiz explained. “People say Tito wants to be the superstar, Tito wants to be the movie star. I am going to be those things. But right now, it’s all about fighting, it’s all about winning. This is a tough sport. This isn’t something that it used to be, where guys were inexperienced. The guys that fight in the UFC now are tough guys.”

Similar to other training camps, Ortiz has bascially cut himself off from civilization, escaping to the solitude of Big Bear, California, where he recently purchased a housing retreat and training facility from Oscar De La Hoya. He claims that he’s not overlooking Machida, even gaining motivation from an outside source.

“The biggest part about Machida is that he’s fast, he’s elusive,” Ortiz said. “He’s a great striker and his jiu-jitsu is great as well, he can trip guys to the mat very well, but I don’t think he’s fought anyone like me. I don’t think he’ll ever fight anyone like me. I’m not worried about him having knockout power. I’ve been hit by Liddell, who is one of the hardest punchers in the UFC and he’s never knocked me unconscious.”

“The one thing that grabs me the most about him is his hunger, his hunger to be one of the best guys right now,” Ortiz continued. “I’m working hard for this. When my back is against the wall is when I fight the best. I’m training hard for this fight and he’s going to be in trouble.”

The aforementioned outside source is UFC President Dana White. The war of words between the two has been ongoing for years, but recently picked up steam when Ortiz expressed his intention to not return to the organization after his contract runs out in the next couple of months. It forced White to counter with his own thoughts, stating that he had no interest in having Ortiz on his roster anyway.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot, 11 years in this sport, and I’ve given everything I’ve had to the sport, to the UFC, and to Zuffa,” Ortiz said. “There’s about three more years of competitiveness in my body for sure. I think this is the most focused I’ve been in the last three years because I have so much to gain in this fight, it being my last fight with the UFC. I’ve been challenged, not by Machida but by the President of the UFC, Dana White.”

“Dana would do anything for me to lose, he would do anything to watch me lose to Machida,” Ortiz continued. “The challenge has been set. He should have kept his mouth shut because now I’m going to hurt Machida. He’s the so-called undefeated fighter. He’s going to be undefeated until he steps in there against me.”

Ortiz’s swan song from the organization where he has spent all but two of his professional fights sweating and bleeding for might not be what he had in mind. However his post-fight good-bye for UFC officials may be exactly what he is thinking.

“When everything is said and done after the fight. I’m going to turn to Frank Fertitta and say thank you,” Ortiz said. “I’m going to turn to Lorenzo Fertitta and say thank you. Then I’m going to turn to Dana and say fuck you.

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