Former UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz, who at one time was the biggest star in U.S. MMA, is now training for pro wrestling.
Ortiz has been training as a beginner at the WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Fla, for potential pro wrestling appearances.
The idea of a former MMA star doing pro wrestling is hardly unusual. The WWE currently has at least 12 former MMA fighters on its 300-wrestler roster including former champions like Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey and Cain Velasquez. But because of his age, Ortiz’s situation is very different.
Ortiz is 45 years old, and also has suffered more than his share of wear-and-tear in an MMA career that spanned 22 years, including double neck fusion.
The WWE has not promoted that Ortiz has been training there regularly but Ortiz has gotten praise from other wrestlers for his work ethic and attitude. Ortiz had always publicly talked about being a pro wrestling fan of Hulk Hogan growing up, and it being his inspiration to get into amateur wrestling, which led to UFC.
He had also dabbled in pro wrestling in the past, doing some television appearances with TNA in 2005, at the height of his MMA popularity, and again in 2013. During his latter stint, it was when Bellator, where Ortiz was under contract to at the time, did some cross-promotional work with TNA. Both companies were on Spike TV at the time, and on paper, seemed to make sense. At that time, Bellator was hopeful that the exposure of Ortiz and Rampage Jackson on pro wrestling television doing a feud would help build their real-life fight. The pro wrestling storyline at the time got too silly and did the MMA match no favors. Bellator pulled him from the show.
Ortiz praised his time in TNA during the second run, particularly because he was able to meet Hogan, who was working there at the time.
The age is certainly a factor here since very few have started training in pro wrestling even as late as their mid-30s and had significant careers, with perhaps the best examples of that being former WCW star Diamond Dallas Page in the 90s and 1976 Olympic judo medalist Allen Coage, who wrestled as Badnews Allen and Badnews Brown, and was a major star during the 80s and early 90s. Currently, Shayna Baszler, who was one of the first regular women MMA fighters in the U.S., has had a second and more successful run in pro wrestling, where she is being groomed to face Becky Lynch, WWE’s top women’s star, at the upcoming WrestleMania show on April 5 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
But nobody that started in their mid-40s has been able to pull off a significant pro wrestling career.
Besides Lesnar, Rousey, Velasquez and Baszler, other WWE performers who have competed in MMA maches in the past include Rezar (Gzim Selmani) of the tag team AOP, Kushida, Shinsuke Nakamura, Marina Shafir, Jessaamyn Duke, Bobby Fish, Jack Gallagher and Matt Riddle.