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From Bad Boy to People's Champion

by Elliot Olshansky   December 09, 2011 at 12:00AM  |  Views: 1,409

Throughout his entire career as a mixed martial artist, one of the defining characteristics of Tito Ortiz has been that the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" is impossible to ignore.

Even in his lesser moments, most notably his five-fight winless streak Ortiz's outsized personality has kept him on fans' minds. When he got his first win since 2006 by beating Ryan Bader, he then stepped up on short notice to deliver a Fight of the Night effort in a loss to Rashad Evans. Once again, Ortiz was the talk of the MMA world.

Four months later, things are eerily quiet around the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, as he prepares to face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 140 this Saturday night in Toronto.

"Little Nog" and Ortiz will meet in the third bout of the main card, leading into the co-main event between Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout between champion Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida. In a sense, the bout almost feels like an afterthought, but Ortiz is confident that his career renaissance will continue.

"It comes down to being healthy," Ortiz said. "I got the surgeries that I did, and I'll be able to battle through and train like I used to when I didn't have injuries. The surgeon did great work on me. Many athletes don't compete again after lower back fusion and neck fusion, but with my heart, I'm able to do a lot of things and into 2012 also."

How far into 2012 Ortiz goes will depend on what he's able to do on Saturday night against Nogueira. His win in July and gutsy effort in August notwithstanding, Ortiz is still 1-5-1 in his last seven bouts, and has lasted a lot longer than anyone without his lengthy resume would have been allowed. After coming up big time for the UFC when Evans needed an opponent, it's unlikely that the UFC would show Ortiz the door with a loss on Saturday. But without a win over Nogueira, the former champ would be on thin ice heading into 2012.

The whole debate may be moot, but Ortiz has been quoted this week as saying that he'd like to close out his fighting career in 2012 with a third fight against Forrest Griffin. Ortiz won a split decision over Griffin when they first met, and Griffin won a split decision in the rematch, which definitely leaves room for a rubber match -- particularly with Griffin coming off of a tough defeat against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

After that fight, Ortiz says, he'll be ready to walk away after 15 years in the sport. Of course, many a fighter has walked away before, only to return, but Ortiz has shown over the years that he's one of a kind.

What do you think will happen when Tito Ortiz and Little Nog collide on Saturday night? Do you think Tito can stick to his plan of retiring next year? Who do you like in a third Griffin-Ortiz bout? Leave your thoughts below.

Photo: Al Bello /Zuffa LLC/ Getty Images

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