Jacob "Tito" Ortiz (born January 23, 1975) is a Mexican American participant of the sport of mixed martial arts, or 'MMA'. Ortiz's career has been mostly within the UFC organization. A former Light-Heavyweight UFC champion, Ortiz has become one of the sport's most shining stars, headlining several Pay Per View championship undercards, and appearing on the covers of various magazines, such as Black Belt Magazine. He is a native of Huntington Beach, California. Tito Ortiz is recognized as a charismatic, if controversial and highly-criticized fighter. Whatever the opinions of Ortiz, he undeniably is both a showman and a talented fighter.
Ortiz began his martial arts career as a wrestler in his sophomore year of high school. Under coach Paul Herrera, Ortiz would place 4th in the state high school championships as a senior. Following high school, Ortiz continued his wrestling career winning a California state junior college title for Golden West College. Following his stint at Golden West, Ortiz wrestled at Cal State Bakersfield. While never a full-time starter, Ortiz did gain significant experience training with future NCAA and world champion Stephen Neal.
His mixed martial arts debut was at UFC 13. He beat Wes Albittron on the tournament's first round by referee stoppage due to a barrage of punches, but lost a bout that he was dominating early on to Guy Mezger in the next round. The Mezger match was interesting as it showed the potential Ortiz had for dominating his opponents with control and hard, sharp elbows (ground and pound). It also demonstrated the very real lack of experience Ortiz had. The fighters were stood up over a disputed end to the fight (Ortiz claimed Mezger tapped). It was ruled the fight should restart (as custom at that time, standing) and Ortiz, as reasonably instructed by his corner, shot in to quickly finish the fight. A slight miscalculation in distance and technical inexperience in MMA found Ortiz caught in a guillotine choke from which Ortiz had no idea how to escape.
After coming back with two victories, including one against Jerry Bohlander, Ortiz dominated a rematch with Mezger. This time, the game but much smaller Mezger was out-wrestled, and the fight was stopped, though Ortiz was doing little damage. After winning the fight, Ortiz put on a shirt that read "Gay Mezger Is My Bitch" and gave the assembled Lion's Den, with whom Mezger trained, the finger. Thus began both his rivalry with the Lion's Den and his custom of wearing t-shirts that belittled his opponent after victories.
Ortiz found himself contending for the UFC Middleweight (200 pound) title. Tito battled it out in a historic fight with the prodigy Frank Shamrock. Catch-wrestler skill and conditioning won the match for Shamrock, but the lesson Tito learned that night shaped the future of the division for the next several years to come. Following the victory, Shamrock retired. The Middleweight title was renamed the Light Heavyweight title and Ortiz was chosen along with Wanderlei Silva as a contender, and they would fight for the title in UFC 25 in April 2000. In an exciting match, Ortiz edged out Silva and took the belt. Ortiz would successfully defend the belt five times in the three years afterwards, defeating Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic, Vladimir Matyushenko and Lion's Den head Ken Shamrock, who had held a grudge with Ortiz since the Mezger incident.
When it was time for Chuck Liddell, a rising Light Heayweight star in the UFC and seemingly perennial #1 contender, to get his title shot, Ortiz began a hiatus from defenses. Ortiz had previously publicly challenged Liddell but now remarked that he and Liddell were friends and claimed a pact was made stating that they would never fight one another. Ortiz also expressed dissatisfaction with his contract with the UFC and they could not come to terms. An exasperated UFC management schemed to create an Interim Light Heavyweight Title to finally coax Ortiz to a fight. The strategy worked, and Ortiz finally agreed to fight with new Interim Light Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture, who had surprisingly defeated Liddell for the interim title, at UFC 44 in September 2003. Couture, who many felt was near retirement, thoroughly dominated Ortiz through five rounds, even spanking him late in the fifth round, and claimed the title outright with an unanimous decision. Couture ended the reign of one of the most dominant champions MMA has ever seen, from any venue and any weight class.
Ortiz afterwards finally faced Chuck Liddell, to whom he lost in UFC 47 by second round knockout. Ortiz's future in the UFC came under question following the Liddell loss. With his UFC career possibly in jeopardy, Ortiz was set to face the also inconsistent Vitor Belfort at UFC 51 in February 2005. Belfort made a strong showing early on before exhausting himself and Ortiz prevailed, winning a split decision. Contract issues left Ortiz on bad terms with the UFC and its president Dana White (who incidentally was his former business manager), and he seemed unlikely to ever compete there again.
During this time away from the UFC, Ortiz was offered deals with several promotions, including PRIDE Fighting Championships and Don King backed promotion World Fighting Alliance, but none came to fruition. Ortiz dabbled in professional wrestling with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling for a time (see below).
Surprisingly, in November 2005, Dana White announced that Ortiz and the UFC have patched their relationship and that he, along with his still-bitter rival Ken Shamrock, would be coaches for the next The Ultimate Fighter reality TV series, which premiered in April 2006. Ortiz has also publicly confirmed he has signed a three-fight deal with the UFC, the first fight occurred at UFC 59 on April 15 2006 against previous The Ultimate Fighter winner Forrest Griffin and the second fight will be against Ken Shamrock after the conclusion of The Ultimate Fighter 3. If Ortiz wins both fights, he will get a shot at a UFC title, most likely the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, currently held by Chuck Liddell. Ortiz won his fight against Griffin in a split decision. Ortiz will now fight Shamrock in the main event of UFC 61 on July 8.
Kayfabe notice: Some events in this section and/or article are kayfabe and refer to events that take place in professional wrestling continuity. Unless otherwise stated, the outcomes of all matches and other confrontations detailed herein are fictional and/or predetermined.In May 2005, Ortiz followed in the footsteps of rival Ken Shamrock when he agreed to appear with the professional wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
On May 15, 2005 at TNA Hard Justice Ortiz served as special guest referee in the NWA World Heavyweight Championship title match between Jeff Jarrett and A.J. Styles at the behest of Director of Authority Dusty Rhodes. Ortiz played a large role in the buildup to the match as well as the outcome, in which he knocked out Jeff Jarrett with a right hook because Jarrett shoved him. This allowed Styles to hit his Spiral Tap for the pinfall victory and claim the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Jarrett.
Ortiz returned to wrestling in October 2005, this time once again as a referee in another NWA World Heavyweight Championship match. His appearance was at TNA Bound For Glory at the behest of Director of Authority Larry Zbyszko for the match intended to be between Jeff Jarrett and Kevin Nash. Ortiz played an even bigger role in the buildup of the match this time, attacking both men on an episode of TNA iMPACT! when they brawled prior to their scheduled match.
Nash had to withdraw from the match after suffering chest pains the previous night, so TNA management inserted Rhino into the fold after he won a ten man gauntlet match. Ortiz maintained order with some success, preventing interference from multiple sources but failing to prevent Jarrett from cheating. Rhino won the match (his third of the night) and the title, but Ortiz left the ring immediately after the match as a brawl ensued involving Jarrett, Rhino, Team Canada, Team 3D, The 3Live Kru, and America's Most Wanted.
Ortiz has roles in several feature films, most notably Cradle 2 the Grave and the controversial Turkish film Valley of the Wolves Iraq.