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Exclusive: Tito Ortiz interview

Earlier this week my interview with Tito Ortiz appeared on CBS Sportsline. As always, Tito was a great interview and there was no shortage of material. However, due to Sportsline’s word count, a good portion of it never appeared on the site. With Sportsline’s permission, I can post the portions of the interview that didn’t make the cut here on

Without further introduction, enjoy… Following your bout vs. Rashad Evans at UFC 73 you accused him of putting extra Vaseline on his shoulders –

Tito Ortiz: (interrupts) Actually, it was on the wrist — his left wrist. It might have been something that his trainer might have mistakenly put on, or maybe he wiped some of the Vaseline off of his face. I felt it there.

Q: In response to being deducted a point for holding onto the cage in round two, you referenced the old NASCAR phrase “You’re not trying if you’re not cheating.” Don’t you think that sends a bad message?

TO: I don’t know about a bad message. I just did it on instinct (grabbing the cage). It’s not like I’m going to lie and say I didn’t do it. I think the biggest thing is being truthful. I’ve always spoke my mind; I’ve always said the truth; and I’ve never said a lie.

Q: You’re known for your dedication to conditioning but you looked fatigued during the third round. Do you agree with the assessment and if so, is there a specific reason that you can point to as to why you were winded?

TO: Oh, for sure. I felt just — my legs just weren’t 100 percent. The reason why was in that second round I was against the fence and going for a takedown against Rashad and I felt like I kind of pulled something in my back. What ended up happening was that I have a recurring injury to my back; it’s a bulging disk and it happened again.

Q: So the back injury is the reason why you think your conditioning wasn’t where it usually is?

TO: No, my conditioning was fine. I just felt my legs go really, really heavy and the reason why was my back. Anybody that’s had a back injury before — a bulging disk — it’s something that you can just walk around no problem on. But that was the problem was me trying to plant my feet and step forward. Due to my back, I just felt really slow.

Q: During the telecast Randy Couture mentioned that you’ve been guilty of overtraining in the past but that you had made modifications. Is what Randy said true and if so, what changes have you made?

TO: I guess it just comes down to as you get older and more mature you have to train smarter. I can’t train the way I used to train when I was 22 or 23-years old — pretty much balls to the wall type training. It’s more of a smarter way the way I do it now. I kind of spread the training times out a little more. I don’t do back-to-back-to-back. And maybe not as much wrestling; we put in shorter hours instead longer hours, I guess you can say.

Q: You complained of having some issues with your back leading up to the fight. Did you get an official diagnosis from the doctor?

TO: Yes, I have. I have a bulging disk between the L4 and L5. Two weeks before I fought I had injections to my lower back between the L4 and L5 and the disk was out three millimeters. So they injected to make the disk smaller and they injected it with an anti-inflammatory. After the fight it’s pretty much exactly the same thing. I go to see my doctor tomorrow to what my next steps will be and the most likely will probably be will be the injections. Injections of anti-inflammatory is what works 100 percent. It worked last year so I’m looking forward to being 100 percent in the next couple of weeks.

Q: I’ve had almost the same injury and went through the injections and they helped in the short-term but not in the long-term. Ultimately I had to undergo surgery so that the damaged areas could be removed. You’re a highly trained professional athlete with quite a few occupational hazards; don’t you think with your style of fighting that you might need surgery at some point?

TO: Yeah, at some point. I’m just really intimidated by just the idea of having surgery to my back. I don’t think anyone who gets surgery to their back looks forward to it. But this is my job; training is not just something I do as a hobby. This is what I do for a living. As great of shape I’m in healing is pretty easy as long as I take care of my lower back and make sure my stomach is strong. I need to rehabilitate (the injury) before I get surgery. Surgery to your lower back is something serious because there’s always the chance of being paralyzed. So that’s why I look forward for it to not really have to happen.

Q: It seems like you’ve been battling injuries leading up to your past few fights. Are the frequent injuries a byproduct of your rigorous training routine?

TO: I think it’s a mixture of the rigorous training I do and I’m just getting old. I’ve been doing this stuff for ten years. I’m not a young kid anymore and I don’t recover as quickly as I used to. I’ve been wrestling since I was 15-years old and I’ve been doing MMA for the last ten years and I just think it’s an adding up of everything. I’ve really torn my body up fighting.

Q: You’re still relatively young for the fight game but you’re not as young as you once were. You cut a ton of weight before a fight. Is it possible that maybe your body isn’t recovering as quickly from the cut as in years past and maybe that’s hurting your stamina during a match?

TO: The weight cutting has never been a problem for me. Ever. Not at anytime at all. The only time I’ve missed a weigh-in on the first time was when I fought (Ken) Shamrock the second time. But I made weight in like, five minutes.

I usually walk around at about 215 pounds. It’s not like I’m 230 or 235 cutting down. I cut from 215, 213, around there. But I’m able to get my weight back up to 220 just because of the hard training I put in up in Big Bear in altitude training where the body really gets dehydrated. Your muscles get dehydrated so when you go back down to sea level your muscles re-hydrate so I put the weight on automatically. And that’s something I’ve mastered. I’ve been doing it for ten years so through ten years of trial and error I’ve figured the perfect way to do it so that I don’t burn my body out. My energy is not sucked off and I’m not cutting weight too hard so I have it pretty much mastered because I’ve never thought at all about the weight cut.

Q: Your boxing has improved a little bit the last few years but your style still hasn’t changed much over the years. Have you given any thought to possibly working outside of Team Punishment in order to advance your game a little more?

TO: Of course. I’m always looking to go out and train with other guys. It’s just I want to make sure I don’t get backstabbed because I’ve gotten my back stabbed so many times in the past; guys who I’ve trained with, guys who I’ve helped out and vice versa. I’ve got to walk lightly around guys that I train with. But the guys I train with now, I’m happy with. My standup game has gotten better but the way I fight is the way I’m always going to fight. It’s not like all of a sudden I’m going to change and turn into a submission master. I fight to beat people down. I fight to hurt people and to entertain them. It seems like I’ve done my job right to this point.

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