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The 'Reinvention' of Tito Ortiz

Tito OrtizTito OrtizMatt Hamill

last October when his phone lit up with a text. On the other end of it was Ortiz's longtime friend and sometime boxing coach Jason Parillo, who had watched the fight from inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, not understanding what his eyes were seeing.

Parillo had worked with Ortiz long enough to know something wasn't quite right, and he wanted the chance to help correct it. So he shot off a text, and then he waited.

A return call would come in time, but the impetus for Ortiz to change his camp came not from the winless streak that stretched over years or from a text from a concerned friend. It came because of family. Not long earlier, Ortiz's girlfriend Jenna Jameson gave birth to twin boys. He also has another son from a previous relationship. Ortiz, who detailed a rough upbringing in his 2008 autobiography This Is Gonna Hurt, thought about how quickly his kids were growing and felt a desire to spend more time with them.

Over the previous years, Ortiz had taken his fight camps to Big Bear, California, where he imported coaches and training partners. Parillo was never a part of that. The two would work together when Ortiz was at home, then part ways when he departed for camp. The situation suited both men, but it also turned into a source of frustration for Parillo, who says he often saw his work undone by the time Ortiz got back into the cage.


121 in Anaheim.

"I was like, f---, what are you doing Tito?" Parillo told MMA Fighting. "He was just not fighting like the guy I've watched for so long. I've watched him fight from the beginning of his career, the way he was grinding guys. But that Hamill fight, what I saw was he was not a guy in there to win, he was just a guy in there to survive. I don't know if it was personal problems or injury issues, but he definitely wasn't there to win a fight."

Parillo's message was out of genuine concern. The two grew up nearby and have known each other for around 15 years.

As a longtime boxing coach -- he fought as a pro from 1998-2003, going 8-0 -- Parillo reasons that fighters need to trust the men tasked with guiding them. He knew that given their past, the partnership could work.

"When I hit him up that night after the Hamill fight, I was showing him love," Parillo said. "I was telling him, 'You can still fight. I believe it. You may believe in something but you're not believing in yourself.' We had to get him back to that."

Parillo said he didn't see any of the telltale signs of a washed-up fighter. Ortiz still had good reaction-time, his reflexes were strong. It was something else.

Ortiz now acknowledges that he let self-doubt creep in.

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. "Negativity from [UFC president] Dana [White], negativity from the fans. And I started believing them. Why? I don't need to believe that. Then I started switching things around, I got a new camp and the guys were so damn positive. I was like, You know what? I filled myself with such negativity. Why? Let's do positive, and see what I get out of it, and it's been one good thing after another."

Ryan BaderUFC 132

, he says. But he also credits all the new coaches around him.

Parillo worked on Ortiz's hands, spotlighting his angles, body positioning and balance, realizing it all works together to assist in his striking, standup defense, takedowns and sprawling.

It paid off against Bader when a punch they dubbed the "hookercut" (hook/uppercut hybrid) dropped him and led to the finish.

Working in concert with him was strength and conditioning coach Michael Giovanni Rivera and jiu-jitsu coach Ricardo Abreu. After years of neck and back problems, Ortiz says his health finally returned to normal, allowing him to regain some of the explosiveness that was the hallmark of his early days. He also added strength and power working with Rivera, taking his walkaround weight up to around 235 pounds. Rivera says that wasn't by design, but simply the result of Ortiz "doing the right things."

"He's very, very strong, a lot stronger than before," Rivera said. "How much more in shape he is, it's pretty incredible. He's bigger, he's stronger, more explosive and a lot of power."

The test of all their work will come on short notice, with Ortiz getting just three weeks to prepare for Evans, a fighter with whom he fought to a draw in 2007. Rivera says that will not be a problem, that Ortiz took minimal time off and has maintained his peak performance.

"It's my opinion that he's in better shape than he was for the Bader fight," Rivera said. "He's got fire in his eyes right now. Rashad is going to be real intimidated when he feels his strength and power, that's for sure. And Tito's not going to get tired, I guarantee that, 100 percent."

For his part, Ortiz called himself "reinvented," saying that he's been revitalized by new coaching staff and new training.

Evans, who called his first bout with Ortiz, his "coming-of-age fight," doesn't buy it.

"I'm going to make him feel old and slow," he said.

Ortiz tough, continues on, undeterred, aided by his new partnerships with old friends.

"I know who I am," he said. I'm a former world champion. No light-heavyweight ever defended their world title longer than I have or as many times as I have. In my mind, I know I'm one of the greatest. I know other people don't think that, but in my mind, I know I'm one of the greatest."

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