Jacob Christopher “Tito” Ortiz (English: /tɪtɵ ɔərtɪs/)  (born January 23, 1975) is an American mixed martial artist and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, having held the title from April 14, 2000 to September 26, 2003. Along with fighters like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, he was one of the sport’s early stars. Ortiz ultimately became the biggest pay-per-view draw of 2006 for his fights with Liddell, Forrest Griffin, and Ken Shamrock.

Outside of his fighting career, Ortiz is the CEO of the Punishment Athletics MMA equipment and clothing line. He also owns an MMA training gym called Punishment Training Center, which is located in Huntington Beach, CA.

Early life and career

Jacob Christopher Ortiz was born to Samuel and Joyce Ortiz. He received his nickname “Tito,” which means tyrant, from his father when he was a year old. He is the fourth child of his mother, Joyce, who had three sons from a previous marriage. His mixed heritage (Mexican father, American mother) has been reflected in his ring entrances as he has borne both Mexican and American flags.

Ortiz began wrestling in his sophomore year at Huntington Beach High School under coach Paul Herrera, finishing fourth in the state high school championships as a senior. Ortiz continued his wrestling career at Golden West College, winning a California state junior college title. Following his stint at Golden West, Ortiz wrestled at Cal State Bakersfield. Ortiz trained with future NCAA, World and Super Bowl champion Stephen Neal.

Ortiz has had fights as a submission wrestler and competed in the 2000 Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling tournament, in the under 99 kg division. He finished in third place after winning 4 fights before losing in the semi-final to Ayaz qadir. During the tournament he defeated Matt Hughes, Mike van Arsdale,Rumina Sato and Rostyslav Borysenko.

Mixed martial arts

Ultimate Fighting Championship

In 1999, Ortiz fought Frank Shamrock for the UFC middleweight (199 lb) title at UFC 22, losing via submission due to strikes. Following the victory, Shamrock retired and vacated the championship. The middleweight division was then renamed the light heavyweight (205 lb) division and Ortiz was chosen, along with Wanderlei Silva, as a top contender. Ortiz defeated Silva for the vacant light heavyweight title at UFC 25 via unanimous decision. He went on to defend the light heavyweight belt a record five times in the following three years, defeating Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic, Vladimir Matyushenko and Lion’s Den head Ken Shamrock.Ortiz has credited former UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten for inspiration during his early days. Ortiz said; “I looked up to Bas Rutten. Bas was my idol. People were just so scared of fighting him, he was like the man. I thought that was what I need to do now. If I train as hard as he does then one day I’ll be as good as him and two years later look where I am, I’m on top of the world. I’m got to say thanks to him, (Bas) for helping me out by making me believe in dreams.”

At UFC 44, after a near year-long layoff from the sport, Ortiz fought the new interim light heavyweight champion Randy Couture, who had defeated Chuck Liddell for the interim title at UFC 43 in September 2003. Couture defeated Ortiz via unanimous decision. The loss ended Ortiz’s near three and a half year title reign, which is still the longest light heavyweight championship reign since the title’s inception in 1997. Following his loss to Couture, Ortiz faced Chuck Liddell at UFC 47, losing by second round knockout. After six months off, Ortiz returned and took a unanimous decision victory over newcomer Patrick Côté at UFC 50 and a split decision over Vitor Belfort at UFC 51.

In February 2005, Ortiz took time away from the UFC and was offered deals with several promotions, including PRIDE Fighting Championships and theDon King-backed World Fighting Alliance, but none came to fruition. Ortiz opted to try his hand at professional wrestling, signing with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling as a guest referee.

In November 2005, UFC president Dana White announced Ortiz and Ken Shamrock would coach The Ultimate Fighter 3 reality TV series on Spike TV, which premiered in April 2006. Ortiz’s first fight in his return occurred at UFC 59 on April 15, 2006, against previous The Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Forrest Griffin. Ortiz won via split decision. His next fight was against UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock at UFC 61 on July 8, 2006, a match which was to conclude a main rivalry on The Ultimate Fighter 3. Shamrock lost in the first round by TKO due to strikes (elbows) by Ortiz. On August 25, 2006, at the UFC 62 weigh-ins, Dana White announced a rematch between Ortiz and Shamrock for October 10, 2006, on Spike TV, as the main event of Ortiz vs. Shamrock 3: The Final Chapter. Ortiz beat Shamrock for the third time in this fight, which was stopped in the first round due to strikes. On December 30, 2006, at UFC 66, Ortiz’s rematch with Chuck Liddell (for the UFC Light Heavyweight championship) ended in defeat via referee stoppage in the third round.

He then fought against undefeated The Ultimate Fighter 2 winner Rashad Evans on July 7, 2007, at UFC 73. The fight ended in a draw after Ortiz was penalized for grabbing the fence. Ortiz’s last fight on his contract with the UFC was a unanimous decision loss to the then undefeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 84 on May 24, 2008. All three judges scored the fight 30–27 to Machida. Ortiz came close to submitting Machida in the third round with a triangle choke before transitioning to an armbar. However, Machida managed to escape and survived the round, winning a unanimous judges’ decision. The fight concluded Ortiz’ stay with the promotion as he chose not to re-sign, citing his frustration with UFC president Dana White as a major factor in the decision.

Outside the UFC

After leaving the UFC, Ortiz was approached by multiple promotions, including the now defunct EliteXC, Affliction and the American Fight League. However, a clause in his old UFC contract forbade him from signing with or fighting for any other organization until approximately April–June 2009. Until his return to the UFC, Ortiz was considered the biggest free agent on the market.

On October 6, 2008, Ortiz underwent back surgery in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to his website, he had been experiencing back pain since his fight with Randy Couture.

On Wednesday, December 17, 2008, Affliction Entertainment announced that Ortiz would be part of the broadcast team for the Affliction: Day of Reckoning. Ortiz had said he would fight again in August 2009, but this did not occur.

Return to the UFC

As part of his comeback to the UFC, Ortiz began training with his original Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo instructor Cleber Luciano a student of Royler Gracie. Ortiz originally briefly trained with Luciano back in 1997, when he was still a student at Golden West College.

On July 17, 2009, both Ortiz and Dana White stated that the pair had made amends. One week later, White announced that he re-signed Tito. Ortiz stated he is returning for a six fight deal he and White have worked out. White officially announced Ortiz’s return in a conference call on July 31, 2009. White mentioned that “everyone wants to see Tito fight” and “Tito will retire in the UFC.” Mark Coleman was named as Ortiz’s opponent for his return to the octagon at UFC 106. However, Mark Coleman pulled out of this bout due to a second-degree tear of his MCL, and was replaced by Forrest Griffin.

Due to an illness to heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, Ortiz’s fight with Griffin was promoted to the headlining event for UFC 106. Griffin won the fight via split decision, showing superior striking ability. Whilst Ortiz was able to secure takedowns in the first and second rounds, Griffin showed considerable improvement since their first fight and kept the fight standing throughout the third, leading to the split decision victory.

On December 5, it was announced Ortiz would coach the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter, with the opposing coach being Chuck Liddell. He was scheduled to fight Liddell again for the third time at the end of the season and later pulled out of the bout. On April 7, 2010, UFC president Dana White said Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 was scheduled to be the main event for UFC 115. However, on April 12, 2010, the UFC confirmed the main event for the card was Liddell vs. Rich Franklin.

Ortiz fought Matt Hamill at UFC 121. Hamill was Ortiz’s first overall pick during Season 3 of the Ultimate Fighter. Ortiz lost the fight via Unanimous Decision (29–28 29–28 30–27).

UFC President Dana White hinted at Tito Ortiz’s possible release from the UFC in a post fight interview after UFC 121 stating that ‘We all know what happens when guys lose four fights in the UFC’. There has been no official statement to confirm this however. On November 7, in a response to a fan via his twitter, Ortiz stated that he will again fight in the UFC.

Ortiz was expected to face Antônio Rogério Nogueira on March 26, 2011 at UFC Fight Night 24. UFC president Dana White said that he had expected to cut Ortiz loose from the UFC after his loss to Hamill, but decided to give him one last chance against Nogueira. Ortiz received a cut above his eye and a concussion while training for his fight with Nogueira and was forced to withdraw. He was replaced by Phil Davis.

Ortiz took on Ryan Bader on July 2, 2011 at UFC 132. Coming in as a heavy underdog with his UFC career on the line, Ortiz dropped Bader with strikes and submitted him using a guillotine choke at 1:56 of the first round, thus securing his first victory since 2006 and saving his UFC career. The victory earned him “Submission of the Night” honors.

In a rematch against Rashad Evans on August 6, 2011 at UFC 133, Ortiz lost by TKO via strikes to the body in the second round.

Ortiz faced Antonio Rogerio Nogueira on December 10, 2011 at UFC 140. He lost the fight via TKO in the first round.

Ortiz has stated that he will retire after his next fight, which is also the last fight on his contract. He has stated he would like to fight his last fight the July 4th weekend of 2012.

Ortiz is expected to face Forrest Griffin for a third time on July 7, 2012 at UFC 148.

Professional wrestling

In May 2005, Ortiz made an appearance for the professional wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). On May 15, 2005 at Hard Justice Ortiz served as special guest referee in the NWA World Heavyweight Championship title match between champion Jeff Jarrett and challenger A.J. Styles at the behest of Director of Authority Dusty Rhodes. Ortiz (in kayfabe) knocked out Jeff Jarrett with a right hook after 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 TNA on the October 1 edition of TNA Impact! and the following week he was revealed as the special guest referee for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship match between Jeff Jarrett and Kevin Nash at the Bound for Glory pay-per-view, in a segment, where he grabbed the number one contender Nash in a rear naked choke in order to prevent him from brawling with Jarrett. On October 23 at Bound for Glory Ortiz refereed the match for the title between Jarrett and Rhino, a last minute replacement for Nash. Ortiz (kayfabe) knocked out James Storm and Chris Harris, two of Jarrett’s associates, who attempted to interfere in the match, and then counted the pinfall, which made Rhino the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion.

Championships and accomplishments

Mixed martial arts

  • Ultimate Fighting Championship
    • UFC Light Heavyweight Championship (One time)
    • Knockout of the Night (One time)
    • Submission of the Night (One time)
    • Fight of the Night (One time)
    • Most fights in UFC history (26)
    • Most successful Light Heavyweight title defenses in UFC history (Five)
    • Most consecutive Light Heavyweight title defenses in UFC history (Five)
    • Tied (Matt Hughes) for third most consecutive title defenses in UFC history (Five)
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter
    • 2002 Feud of the Year vs Ken Shamrock
    • 2006 Feud of the Year vs Ken Shamrock
  • Black Belt Magazine
    • 2001 NHB Co-Competitor of the Year along with Chuck Liddell
  • FIGHTING SPIRIT magazine
    • 2006 Fight of The Year (vs Forrest Griffin, UFC 59)
    • 2006 Golden Gloves
  • Sherdog
    • 2011 Upset of the Year (vs. Ryan Bader, UFC 132)

Submission grappling

  • Abu Dhabi Combat Club
    • 2000 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships −99 kg Bronze Medalist
    • 2000 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships Absolute 4th Place

Amateur wrestling

  • California Community College Athletic Association
    • CCCAA State Champion (1995, 1996)
    • CCCAA All-American (1995, 1996)
    • CCCAA All-State Selection (1995, 1996)
  • California Interscholastic Federation
    • CIF All-State Selection (1993)