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Tito Ortiz's MMA exit strategy: Win Bellator title and retire as champion

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES -- This year could be Tito Ortiz's last in MMA.

The UFC Hall of Famer and legend of the sport said he plans on fighting just twice more for Bellator.

One of those, he said, will come in June against the winner of a Bellator light heavyweight title fight between Emanuel Newton and Liam McGeary set for later this month. Ortiz's final bout will be a title defense after he takes the belt from one of them, he said.

"You never know what times can tell, but right now that's my goal," Ortiz told MMAFighting.com. "That's what I want to do. I'm 40 years old. In 17 years, I've done everything in the sport. Retiring as the champion and being the only athlete to ever do that, I think goals like that are set in the mind. I want to make that happen. I've done so much in the sport that no athlete has ever done in mixed martial arts and I want to continue doing it."

Ortiz was here this weekend at the LA FitExpo signing autographs and taking pictures with fans to promote his Punishment Athletics brand. And there were plenty of things to sign and pictures to take. Ortiz was busy for more than five hours each day without taking a break.

Say what you will about the former UFC light heavyweight champion, but his fanbase is still extremely strong. Ortiz's Bellator 131 main event with Stephan Bonnar in November was the most watched MMA fight on cable television in 2014.

"I mean, 2.2 million viewers on Spike TV doesn't lie," Ortiz said. "Fans still want to see me compete. Fans still want to hang out and they wait in line for five hours -- crazy. It keeps me real. I don't see myself any higher than anyone else."

Ortiz (18-11-1) has retired before, after a loss to Forrest Griffin at UFC 148 in July 2012. But since signing with Bellator in 2013, the Mexican-American star is 2-0 and he's gunning for a title shot. Ortiz defeated Bonnar by unanimous decision in that Nov. 15 bout in San Diego. Newton, the champion, takes on McGeary at Bellator 134 on Feb. 27 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

"I love to compete," Ortiz said. "I want to be a world champion and Bellator is gonna give me the opportunity after coming off of two wins. I'm thankful for it."

"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" also understands the Bellator is a growing organization and he is a drawing card that it can continue to build around. Ortiz said he was in New York last week for a photo and video shoot that will be rolled out as part of Spike TV's new Friday night branding as the home of combat sports.

"They're putting in money," Ortiz said. "It was bigger than a UFC production they were using. I was surprised. It's great what [new Bellator president] Scott [Coker] is doing. Spike TV is on board 100 percent. Viacom is on board 100 percent. They want to make a mark on the sport. Me being one of those guys who can put things on his shoulders, I've been in that position before with the UFC and I can do it."

Ortiz is feeling good, too. Not just physically, either. He enjoys spending time with his twin sons from his past relationship with Jenna Jameson.

"I'm really healthy right now," Ortiz said. "I just turned 40 and I'm healthier now than I was when I was 30, physically wise. Emotionally wise, like no other. I went through a really hard relationship and now it's nice to be in a positive mind where everything around me is great. I've worked super hard for it, though. I've been through hell not totally unscathed, but I came out not too bad."

That said, Ortiz knows the clock is ticking. He's been through the retirement process once before and now he's putting an expiration date on his career.

"I have a couple more fights left in me," Ortiz said. "I want to go on to bigger things. I have kids. I don't want the chance of being paralyzed or something like that. I want to get my last two fights the best I can and that's for a world title, get that world title, defend it and retire as the world champion."