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With Win Over Ryan Bader, Tito Ortiz Salvages UFC Career

Tito OrtizLAS VEGAS -- UFC president Dana White told Tito Ortiz he needed to win to keep his job, but he also told reporters that Ortiz fights best when his back is against the wall. At UFC 132, Ortiz (16-8-1) did both, dropping fellow light heavyweight Ryan Bader (12-2) with a short right hook and then submitting him with a guillotine choke at 1:56 of the first round.

"Everybody knew that Tito had to win tonight to stay in the UFC, and he did it," White said at the post-fight press conference. "Not only did he win a fight, he won the fight impressively."

Coming into Saturday night's event, the 36-year-old Ortiz hadn't won a bout since 2006, going 0-4-1 in his previous five efforts. That made the win all the more emotional for Ortiz, who struggled through some very public personal problems in the weeks leading up to the bout, but said he was helped through the hard times by his coaches and training partners, as well as his supporters on Twitter.

"About three and a half months ago it was really hard for me to get into my gym and train. When negativity gets you down, you got to find something to uplift you, make you stronger, and get past those downfalls in life," said Ortiz.

Ortiz came into the fight as a heavy underdog against Bader -- a former All-American wrestler at Arizona State who is eight years his junior -- and was counted out by many observers before the bout. But Ortiz surprised everyone by dropping Bader with a punch, which he said felt like "an out-of-body experience."

"I was just kind of watching myself do it," Ortiz said. "Everything was in slow-mo. It was kind of like in 'The Matrix.' It was weird, really weird."

After Ortiz finished the fight by forcing Bader to tap out to the choke, he celebrated with the grave-digger pantomime he popularized in the early days of his UFC career -- a post-fight celebration that hasn't graced the Octagon for the better part of five years. It's a move that Ortiz said he was asked to do when he paid a visit to the contestants on the current season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' recently.

"I told them, 'I can't do it. I've got to wait until Saturday before I do it,'" he said. "And they looked at me and said, 'Do you think so?' I said, 'I guarantee it.'"

But while the win keeps Ortiz's UFC career alive, his relationship with former manager and current boss White is still not entirely harmonious. The two were at odds before this event over what White referred to as "typical Dana-Tito s--t," and even though White awarded Ortiz with the $75,000 bonus for Submission of the Night, the history between the two isn't likely to be forgotten so easily.

"Once again I leave my career in Dana's hands. [13] years ago he came to my apartment and said, 'Let me manage you, I'll take care of your career.' I made some mistakes between now until then, had some people in my ear saying some bad things, and I got lost and I found myself. I kind of reinvented myself."

As for where his career goes from here, Ortiz told reporters that since he's finally healthy after years of being plagued by injuries, he now has "no more excuses." And while many of his contemporaries like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture have slipped into retirement in recent years, Ortiz thinks his best years as a fighter may still be ahead of him.

"Look at my age," he said. "I just turned 36. Chuck was in his prime at 36. He was knocking people out left and right. Randy was in his prime at 36, dominating people. I'm still young. I got in the game when I was young. I never fought anywhere else."

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