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Like a scene out of an old western movie, Tito Ortiz and Alberto “El Patron” Rodriguez will square off to prove who has the fastest hands at the Texas-Mexico border when the cage doors close this Saturday night at Combate Americas 51. This weekend’s battle—the organization’s first time being aired on pay-per-view—is neither fighter’s first rodeo, but both men look to leave one last mark on mixed martial arts before riding off into the sunset.
With the support of athlete management company Mon Ethos, Ortiz, 44, has been blazing his own comeback trail in recent years and may not be so quick to call it quits, win or lose. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” returned in style last year with Golden Boy Promotions, knocking out fellow former UFC champ Chuck Liddell in the rubber match of their trilogy. But rather than leaving on a winning note, Ortiz stuck around, feeling he still has more to offer the sport.
“I slept Chuck in the first round and I had an 18-week camp that went really, really well,” Ortiz says. “After the fight was over, I felt like I still had more to give.”
Another motivational boost? Ortiz’s pal Randy Couture, who at age 43 returned from retirement to win the UFC heavyweight title in 2007. Ortiz gave the UFC legend a call to discuss his decision back in the day.
“He was like, ‘Dude, I just felt like I wasn’t done, I had a lot more in the tank.’ That’s all I needed to hear,” says Ortiz. “I was like, alright, cool, this is something I want to do. I sat my family down and told my boys, ‘Guys, dad wants to fight,’ and they had a big smile on their faces and were like, ‘Dad, you can do it!’ So I’ve been at it since.”
Ortiz admits he isn’t focused on going on another championship run like Couture, although he calls a potential Combate Americas matchup with former UFC champ Cain Velasquez “interesting.” But for at least this weekend, he’s just wants to entertain fans whenever he enters the cage.
MMA legend @titoortiz addresses a nasty comment recently made about upcoming, highly-anticipated showdown with former, multiple-time WWE Heavyweight Champion and former PRIDE and DEEP MMA star @PrideOfMexico (formerly Alberto Del Rio of the WWE). #TitovsAlberto #WhatSideAreYouOn pic.twitter.com/B1Ue4Rc8cc
— Combate Americas (@combateamericas) October 22, 2019
“Right now, it’s strictly about the entertainment value of it,” says Ortiz. “People want to see fun fights and be entertained. I think this fight will do this.”
For “El Patron,” the former WWE star returns to MMA, with some obvious rust after nearly a decade removed. During his days with famed organizations like Japan’s Pride back during MMA’s wild west era, Rodriguez sported a 9-5 record, and his most notable fight ended in a first-round knockout defeat against MMA legend Mirko Cro Cop.
Although he has many reasons for stepping into the cage, the main inspiration behind this comeback was to lend a hand (or fist) in helping grow the organization, having worked with Combate Americas for the past six years. Admiring the fighters the organization is developing, “El Patron” wants to use his stardom as a way to get more eyeballs on these talented up-and-comers.
“I decided to do one last fight and give the company its first pay-per-view in history, give an opportunity to these amazing kids, these amazing fighters to be in a pay-per-view card,” “El Patron says. “Of course, if I was going to do it, I had to do it the right way. The right way was fighting someone like Tito, someone that would bring something to the company.”
Ortiz shares a similar sentiment, hoping to use his clout as a renowned former UFC champion in order to give a platform to the next generation of stars fighting on the card.
“I want to give that opportunity for a lot of younger guys that come up to have that same opportunity to be on a big stage,” says Ortiz. “Making that stage big, using my name to do it.”
Of course, “El Patron” had other reasons for taking up this marquee matchup.
“You know, I’d be lying if I don’t say this, but the money is also good,” “El Patron” jokes. “They did a good offer for me.”
At the end of the day, both fighters also want to cement their legacies, serving as inspirations for their friends, fans and family.
“I want to show my boys what hard work and dedication are about,” says Ortiz. “My true legacy is my kids.”
“I’m going to be able to leave a legacy for future generations,” Rodriguez says. “Especially for me, a Mexican, a Latino, to be a living example to all those Latinos and Mexicans dreaming of a fantastic life, me at least putting a little bit of me to show them that when you dream it and you work hard for it, dreams do come true. I’m the living proof.”