Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ortiz not wallowing in defeat Ex-UFC champ looks ahead after KO by Liddell

Tito Ortiz will celebrate his 32nd birthday tonight with about 1,000 of his closest friends at Pure nightclub at Caesars Palace, a bash hosted by his girlfriend, adult film star Jenna Jameson.

Apparently, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champ has no qualms about meeting the public, despite suffering a third-round knockout by archrival Chuck Liddell last month in the richest mixed martial arts event in history.

"I have nothing to be ashamed of, so there is no reason I should hide from my fans," said Ortiz, who said he needed 32 stitches to close a wound near his left eye in the Dec. 30 fight at the MGM Grand Garden.

"I fought the best fighter in the world. If I lost to some guy everybody was beating, that might be a different story. But Chuck right now is on top of his game."

Ortiz, who has lost twice by knockout to his former friend and training partner, still isn't convinced his rivalry with Liddell has been settled. Given the success of the pay per view last month, it would be no surprise if the UFC matched the fighters for a third time -- after Ortiz has strung together a few wins.

UFC president Dana White declined to release the pay-per-view sales, though he had predicted 1.2 million buys. Last week he said the fight did as well as he had hoped.

Ortiz, whose purse was based largely on the success of the pay per view, said he had yet to receive an exact figure.

"I've heard different things -- 1.4, 1.5 (million) -- but I don't know for sure what it is yet," Ortiz said. "But it did real well."

It's evidence that Ortiz remains one of the biggest draws in mixed martial arts. The paid gate was nearly $5.4 million, the largest for the sport in North America.

Ortiz said he will try to break that mark, because he's fully healthy and, he believes, hitting his peak years.

"Honestly, I think the situation with me (losing to Liddell) is a confidence issue," Ortiz said. "It's something I can fix, which is the most important thing. I can make changes and improvements.

"I was definitely a better fighter (in the second fight) than I was the first time. I'm going to continue to improve. As I continue to mature as a fighter, I think you're going to be surprised at how much better I still can get."

Ortiz was nearly stopped in the first round, but came back in the second. Many observers believe he won that round before Liddell closed him out in the third.

Ortiz said he didn't agree with referee Mario Yamasaki's decision to stop the bout when he did, with Ortiz on his back covering up as the hard-punching Liddell was on top raining blows upon him.

Ortiz said he watched a tape of the card and determined that other fighters, particularly veterans such as himself, were given longer to fight their way out of trouble.

"This was the biggest fight in history, and I think it was stopped a little prematurely," Ortiz said. "I'm not a guy who cries or makes excuses. But John McCarthy is the best referee we have and this was the biggest fight and I don't understand why he didn't do this fight. He would have let the fight go a little longer, I believe.

"If I knew (Yamasaki) was going to stop it, I would have fought a little harder to get out at that point."

Ortiz, who wants to fight a top-five contender in his next bout, said the loss to Liddell is already behind him.

"I'm going to go have fun with my fans (tonight) and I'm going to be the same Tito Ortiz I always was," he said. "The only thing I promise is that I'm going to get better as a fighter and get my title back. That's what is motivating me, to get that title back for my fans."


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