Category Archives: Tito Ortiz

Fighters in Love

From this week’s Crave Online column:

Hey there fight fans, can we talk frankly here for a minute? Can we just drop the pretenses and lay it all on the line? There’s this thing that’s been going through my mind for a while now. I’ve been holding it in because, well, it’s not exactly about fighting. It’s about fighters. More to the point, it’s about the women who fighters seem to pair off with, and how strikingly similar they all are.

The breaking point for me was this week when Tito Ortiz and his girlfriend, Jenna Jameson, appeared together on the Howard Stern show. Isn’t it weird, I thought to myself, that a pretty famous athlete is dating the most notorious porn star in the world? He’s in an at least somewhat monogamous relationship with a woman who we’ve all seen performing numerous sex acts on numerous people, a woman whose oral sex techniques have become common knowledge. Isn’t that strange?

But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how strange it wasn’t, and how that was strange. It seemed completely normal and almost predictable that Tito Ortiz – a world famous MMA fighter – would be shacked up with a porn star. And why? Because he’s a fighter, and because fighters seem to gravitate toward a certain type of woman.

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Filed under MMA, Sports, Tito Ortiz, UFC

The True Genius of The Ultimate Fighter

The Ultimate Fighter reality series on Spike TV takes a lot of heat from MMA fans. Some of it is deserved, but most of it isn’t. People say the format is stale, the fights are often mismatches or generally lacking in energy. But I think these people are focusing on the wrong things, and in the process they’re missing everything that’s really great about TUF (yeah, I’m abbreviating now, so deal with it). There is a lot of what is good about reality TV in general in this show, and surprisingly little of what is bad.

For example: my girlfriend loves Top Chef on Bravo. I’m pretty sure it’s the most boring thing I’ve ever seen on TV, including test patterns. This is a source of conflict for us, but we live with it. However, whenever I find myself watching even a few minutes of TC (that’s right), I start wishing that they would end each show with some kind of final showdown, preferrably a fight of some kind where there could be a clear winner.

‘Man,’ I think to myself. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there were a show like that?’

This is when I remember that TUF gives us what we’ve always wanted from reality TV: conflicts of personality and desire that turn into actual, sanctioned fights. Maybe we’ve started taking it for granted after so many seasons. I don’t know.

I’ve watched every season of TUF. I watched it back when it first came on and I didn’t have cable and had to go to a friend’s house every week, even when he might not have wanted me there, because I didn’t want to miss any of it.

Since then the show has improved dramatically. They got rid of the challenges and the concept of a host (though why is Dana White an official cast member when he seems to only show up every now and then?). But what I’ve really come to love about the show is how much we learn about the veteran fighters who serve as coaches.

Take Matt Hughes. I used to be a huge Matt Hughes fan. He seemed like a great fighter and a great guy. But after two seasons as a coach on TUF, I was forced to reevaluate that stance. Not only does he seem to be a real ball-buster (which I could forgive, though it’s annoying), he also seems incredibly egotistical and a little petty.

Remember when he encouraged one of his fighters to fight injured, which only further injured him? Remember when he seemed happy that this weak link was off his team?

That makes me think that Hughes didn’t understand how the show worked. If you’re a coach on TUF, it’s not about you. It’s about your fighters. Your job is to make them into the best they can be. You don’t get an extra prize if one of your fighters wins. Your guys will probably have to face each other in the tournament at some point. You’re there to help them improve, not to play head games and steal the spotlight.

You’re also not there to lead Bible study and ask your fighters to decide which character in the Book of Esther most closely represents you, because that’s just weird.

Conversely, look at Tito Ortiz. I never really liked Ortiz all that much before his stint on TUF. He always came off as a grandstanding jerk. But on the show he seemed like a natural coach, one committed to doing whatever was necessary to help his guys. He seemed compassionate and sincere and had a really great work ethic.

I’m still not a huge Ortiz fan, but I really respect him and want to see good things happen to him (good things like success and happiness, not good things like Jenna Jameson, who might turn out to be the opposite of a good thing once those test results come back).

And what about Matt Serra?  I was mostly indifferent towards him before his two stints on TUF — first as contestant and now coach — but I’ve really come to like him.  Nothing makes me sympathize with a guy like watching him struggle with Joe Scarola and his inexplicably bad choices.

This is the greatest value of TUF for me. We learn a lot about the contestants, sure, but there are so many of them who we’ll never see again that it’s hard to know who to care about right off. The coaches are already somebody important. How they respond to challenges and successes and failures while they’re not in the cage can tell us a lot about their personalities.

This is why I really keep watching the show. The fights are fun to watch, but they don’t usually get interesting until the semifinals. Seeing guys go stir crazy in the house got old for me in season one. But watching true character revealed never gets old.

So maybe we should ease up on the criticism for TUF. The fact is, it’s still better than similar shows where there are no fights (looking at you, Top Chef, although America’s Next Top Model gets a pass), and it’s also better than most of what’s on TV. I know that’s not exactly a major accomplishment, but it’s enough. At least for now.

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Filed under MMA, Sports, Tito Ortiz, TV, UFC

Tito Ortiz Talking Crazy?

Rumor has it that Tito Ortiz made an appearance at a Shelton, Washington casino to announce that his next fight would be against either Rashad Evans or Wanderlei Silva.  I’ll skip over my conjectures as to why Ortiz was even at a casino in Shelton, WA in the first place, let alone making announcements there, and go right to the part where I say that I sincerely hope the UFC does not match him with Silva next.

After their first bout ended in a draw, Ortiz-Evans II makes far more sense than does Ortiz-Silva II (in case you’ve forgotten, they fought back in 2000 in the UFC, with Ortiz winning a decision).  If I were the UFC I’d have Silva locked in a padded room until I could put him up against Liddell in December or January.  They just shouldn’t take a chance on him before that because who knows how much is left in “The Axe Murderer”?

No matter what you might think of Ortiz’s antics, however, you have to admit that he’s learned the lessons of self-promotion better than anyone.  By running his mouth constantly he’s assured that there will always be someone who wants to fight him and there will always be a significant number of people who will pay to see it in the hopes that Ortiz gets his face smashed in.

That’s smart.  So many athletes give boring boiler-plate responses in interviews and miss the opportunity to make themselves a commodity the way Ortiz has done.  He realizes that being a fighter is as much about entertainment as it is about performance, but at the same time he’s known for running a grueling training camp and turning mediocre fighters into dynamic ones.

Personally, I think Rashad Evans would beat Ortiz in a rematch, but I hope the UFC makes it happen soon anyway.  I also hope that, when it’s time, Ortiz gets out of the fight game and puts his obvious talents as a coach and trainer to work.

Imagine the force he could be if he were building fighters in his Big Bear gym and at the same time serving as their incendiary mouthpiece when the cameras start rolling.  Hopefully he learned something from watching his nemesis Ken Shamrock soldier on past his prime.  But I’m not counting on it.

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Filed under MMA, Rashad Evans, Sports, Tito Ortiz, UFC, Wanderlei Silva