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Tito Ortiz isn’t afraid to admit what drives him: “As a kid, I wished my dad would just say, ‘Son, I love you.’ I never had a father figure growing up. He chose drugs over me, and it was sad,” the mixed martial arts legend says.
During his childhood, both his parents were addicted to heroin and largely absent from his life. It was his pursuit of acceptance that drove him— first to his own methamphetamine addiction as a teenager, then to MMA training under the tutelage of coach Paul Herrera, and eventually, to his dedication to being a present and supportive father for his own three sons. “You have to take the time out of your day to tell your kids, ‘I love you, I’m really proud of you.’ It’s really all they want to hear.”
His difficult upbringing also instilled a fight in him that has made Ortiz one of the original MMA stars. He’s most famous for his three fights with fellow fighter Chuck “the Iceman” Liddell and for being the original bad boy of the sport. And on Dec. 7, 2019, 22 years after his UFC debut, the 44-year-old took to the Octagon once again in a Combate Americas fight against former WWE champ Alberto Del Rio, whom he forced to tap out via rear naked choke in the first round.
The matchup came with another level of drama for the two veteran fighters. Ortiz explains, “People know I’m a huge supporter of Donald Trump, and when the idea of the wall came about, I was a supporter of it, and Del Rio is not a supporter of it. So Combate Americas put this fight smack-dab on the border in Hidalgo, TX. We have different political views, but neither of us thinks the other is wrong, and we have discussions about it.”
Despite his demanding training schedule and family life, Ortiz still manages to run an apparel company, Punishment Athletics. He also produces and stars in his YouTube series, Tito Ortiz Uncaged. With the support of athlete management company Mon Ethos, Ortiz has created a lasting brand that will endure well past his MMA career. “Out of every athlete I’ve ever worked with, no one works harder or is more considerate of his fans than Tito,” Mon Ethos president and owner David Whitaker says.
But Ortiz doesn’t plan on leaving the Octagon anytime soon. He’s committed to Combate Americas for another two years, and he is considering challenging Ryan Bader—the reigning light-heavyweight and heavyweight champ of Bellator MMA, whom he submitted in 2011—for his light-heavyweight title.
Summing up his current state, Ortiz points to his walkout shirt he wore for his latest fight: “Living the American Dream.”