Just days away from his latest comeback at UFC 121 I can’t help but question which version of Tito Ortiz we’re going to be seeing on Saturday night against Matt Hamill.
If you listen to his pre-fight hype then he’s back to 100% after serious neck surgery earlier this year which saw him have two vertebrae fused together, and is now ready to get back to the title he lost some seven years ago to Randy Couture at UFC 44.
“I feel like a new man after going through two major surgeries,” – Tito Ortiz speaking to USA Today earlier this week.
That’s all well and good, but the problem is that if you rewind back to Ortiz last fight in the octagon, a rematch with Forrest Griffin in November of last year, he was same exactly the same thing.
The circumstances then were almost identical. At that stage he had just returned from well over a year out in which he’d had major back surgery, and was telling anyone who would listen that he was a new man, able to compete at his best for the first time in years, and yes, you guessed it, was, “ready to get that title back, baby!”
It quickly became apparent in the fight however that this was exactly the same Tito Ortiz as we had been watching for a number of years now, the one who hadn’t tasted victory since back in October of 2006 when he crushed a long past his sell-by-date Ken Shamrock.
Afterwards it turned out that Ortiz hadn’t been 100% at all, prompting the second surgery.
So when the former champion starts cranking up the hype machine once again it’s getting easier to look beyond the smoke and mirrors and see him for what he really is – A former great who’s now 35, injury prone, and holding a less than flattering record of 0-3-1 in the past four years.
Adding to the growing doubts over the star’s latest comeback is the fact that his personal life is also getting in the way of his fighting ambitions.
His rocky relationship with ex-porn queen Jenna Jameson resulted in him spending a day in jail after she accused him of hitting her earlier this year. He then fired back by claiming that she was addicted to painkillers.
The two later patched things up, but just weeks before his fight this weekend Ortiz and Jameson had another public falling out via twitter, with the fighter accusing her of lying.
Now Ortiz claims that, “things are back to normal,” and that their relationship is, “100%”
Thankfully the time for talking is almost over. On Saturday night when the cage door closes we’ll find out who the real Tito Ortiz is.
Perhaps we are finally going to witness the return to form of ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,’ the man who successfully defended his title fight times, becoming one of the sports first true superstars in the process.
Alternatively, the harsh reality may be that we’re set to witness a former champion who’s best days are long behind him and is now closer to a pink slip than a title shot.