This Saturday "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz returns to fight in the UFC for the first time since his blockbuster rematch loss to Chuck Liddell last December. Ortiz will look to derail the undefeated Rashad Evans from continuing his rapid rise to UFC title contendership. We caught up with Ortiz to talk about his fight against Evans, his reason for turning down a rematch with Forrest Griffin and other light heavyweights he would like to fight next.
MMAFighting.com: Dana White said recently that he basically thought you had matured as a person and a fighter. What did you think about that?
Tito Ortiz: It's just one of things, man. Dana and I don't always see eye to eye. It's a business, though. First and foremost it's a business. I always try and make things exciting and bring something extra to the table every time I fight. Dana and I have a history and it is what it is. I don't hate him and he doesn't hate me. It's just business. I am a fighter, I get paid to fight. That's what I do. That's what I was born to do. We had our moments, but I think we are at a point where things are pretty good between us.
MMAFighting.com: Tell us what was really behind the infamous "nappy ho" comment.
Tito Ortiz: I mean, I can't please every person. I was completely kidding. It was around the time of Don Imus's thing and I thought it was funny as did everyone else. If Rashad wanted to take it seriously there's nothing I can do about it. I'm a minority so I can assure you it was not racism. It was a joke and should have been taken as that. I don't exactly make it a habit to insult someone because of their religion, race, sex, or whatever. That's not me and that's not how I operate. We were kind of verbally sparring back and forth and it was a joke, just a joke. It amazes me how some people could have construed it as an insult with bad intentions, especially coming from me. I'm far from being racist.
MMAFighting.com: Just a joke is how most everyone I talked to took it, too.
Tito Ortiz: That's all it was. I good a good laugh out of it and I thought I made it clear when I said it that it was nothing more than that.
MMAFighting.com: I think now that Rashad probably sees it as just that.
Tito Ortiz: I do, too.
MMAFighting.com: A lot of fans compare him to an earlier version of you. He has a style that is similar to yours on paper. Do you take that as a compliment or see it that way?
Tito Ortiz: I really don't see it that way, not at all. I think he makes a lot of mistakes and he's a lot shorter than me. He's a very good fighter, he's undefeated. He's hungry like me, but we're not that similar. He's trying to make a name for himself by talking smack to me and I hate to tell him this, but he is always going to be in my shadow.
MMAFighting.com: If you look at your fights with Shamrock, Liddell, Couture, and even Forrest. It seems to me like you are always bringing out the "A" game in fighters.
Tito Ortiz: I mean, that's definitely true. I only want to fight the best. That's what I have always done is fight the best. I think that people know who I am and what I have done so they know they can't come in anything, but 100%.
MMAFighting.com: I heard a statement that you turned down a rematch with Forrest Griffin. What was the real reasoning behind that?
Tito Ortiz: They asked me for a rematch with Forrest and I straight up turned it down so I could face Rashad. That's a tougher fight for me right now. I wanted to beat someone who was undefeated and I want to give Rashad his first loss. The rematch with Griffin would be a step back right now. Forrest is a tough kid who likes to brawl, but I wanted this fight with Rashad because it would a much more interesting and exciting fight for the fans. Think what you will about my choice, but this is going to be a great fight. I'm not going anywhere, I am here to stay. I'm still young and I have a bright future.
MMAFighting.com: Are you looking forward to a rematch with Wanderlei Silva if it presents itself?
Tito Ortiz: Absolutely! I would love a rematch with Wanderlei. Wanderlei, Shogun, Arona. Any of these names would be an awesome fight for me. Anyone in the top 10 or top 5. Those guys are top 5. Those are the guys I want to fight. The upper echelons of the 205 pound division.
MMAFighting.com: If the opportunity presents itself would you and Rampage fight?
Tito Ortiz: That is something that has come up in conversations. I mean, I don't want to say yes or want to say no. That's something he and I would definitely have to talk about. We'd have to talk about it. I don't want to take food off of his table.
MMAFighting.com: On your record, you have some impressive names like Matyushenko, Mezger, Shamrock, Tanner, Belfort, and Silva. How do you feel Evans fits in there?
Tito Ortiz: I definitely think he is top 5 in the UFC. He's in top shape. It's just one of those things. The guys he has fought has had no takedown defense. Bonnar, Hogar, Lambert. They don't really have good takedown defenses. I'm a different kind of fighter for Rashad. I have great takedowns and I have great takedown defense. Rashad is going to have a hard time in this one. I plan on finishing it in the first round. Liddell hits a lot harder than he does and I'm not worried about his stand-up as I would be with a Chuck Liddell. It's going to be a great fight. I won't take anything away from him. He's a very good fighter. It's my time and my hand is going to be raised at the end of the night.
MMAFighting.com: Tito, tell us about how your clothing company Punishment Athletics is going.
Tito Ortiz: Things are going great, you know? This summer is looking great. We're doing all kinds of things this year. Just to give you an idea of how we're branching out, we're sponsoring an incredible magic show in Las Vegas. We're always trying to get our clothing line to be as accessible as possible across the country. We put out a great product for our customers and fans that you can check out at Punishment Athletics' website, PunishmentAthletics.com. It's been a phenomenal year so far and we are looking forward to bigger and better things happening for us as it goes on.
MMAFighting.com: You are going overseas to visit the troops overseas soon, right?
Tito Ortiz: Oh yeah. With the USO, Probably middle to late July or early August. We're going to the Persian Gulf and try to boost their morale.
MMAFighting.com: Thanks, Tito.
Tito Ortiz: Thanks for the support. Make sure you visit PunishmentAthletics.com.