Tito Ortiz outraged many the other night with his often outlandish comments on Spike TV about Matt Hamill, his opponent on Saturday at UFC 121 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Ortiz said that Hamill, who is deaf, has a "soft head" and no equilibrium. Ortiz called Hamill "a big slow ox" and suggested he'll pummel his one-time friend.
"I taught Matt Hamill everything he knows, his ground and pound, his takedowns, everything," Ortiz said during the countdown show on Spike. "I know his weaknesses. I know his strengths. He's going to understand he could have learned a lot more from me."
It was vintage Ortiz. He's one of the best salesmen in modern fighting history and finds a way to build interest in a fight even if it's a below-the-radar match like the one between he and Hamill on Saturday.
Brock Lesnar, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's mammoth heavyweight champion, is like an eclipse in terms of the attention he commands. Interest in Lesnar is so intense that he blocks everyone else out. As a result, nearly all of the focus of UFC 121 has been on Lesnar's preparation for his title defense against No. 1 contender Cain Velasquez.
The Ortiz-Hamill fight is intriguing, but it's not one that has had fight fans buzzing. Hamill and Ortiz became friends during the filming of Season 3 of "The Ultimate Fighter" on Spike, when Ortiz was coaching and made Hamill his first pick. The two went on to form a bond and Hamill later went to Big Bear, Calif., to train with and learn from Ortiz.
Even now, Hamill professes great respect for Ortiz, though they have lost touch over the years.
"There are only two fighters I feel close to, and that's Rich [Franklin] and Tito," Hamill told Yahoo! Sports.
Duff Holmes, Hamill's trainer/manager, said Hamill has a far closer relationship with Franklin, the former UFC middleweight champion, than he ever did with Ortiz. During the countdown show, Hamill said facing Ortiz would be like fighting his brother.
Prior to the countdown show, there was no heat between them that would generate interest in their fight. The coverage that wasn't being devoted to the Lesnar-Velasquez fight was mostly going to welterweight Jake Shields, who makes his UFC debut in the co-feature on Saturday when he meets Martin Kampmann with a title shot in the offing.
Despite going 0-3-1 in his last four fights and not really looking like a championship-caliber fighter in more than five years, Ortiz remains a major star in mixed martial arts.
And when he noticed that not much attention was being paid to his fight, he created a reason for fans to become interested. If Ortiz had been a car salesman, his office wall would have been littered with "Salesman of the Month" plaques.
There was a time, though not many of the UFC's post-Ultimate Fighter fans may remember it, when there was no one better at 205 pounds than Ortiz. He is among a handful of fighters, along with Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Matt Hughes and a few others, who helped usher the UFC from its tenuous "human cock fighting" early days into the modern age. Ortiz deserves as much credit as any fighter for the UFC's staggering growth and burgeoning popularity.
Age and a long career in the fight game have taken a huge toll on Ortiz's body. He is no longer the powerful, fierce fighter with seemingly unlimited reserves of energy he once was and is just 0-3-1 in his last four fights. He appears more like a middle-aged guy closing in on retirement rather than one preparing for another title run, but Ortiz makes a strong case why he's struggled since 2003.
After going 10-2 in his first 12 fights, he's just 5-5-1 in his last 11. There is a common thread among those fights, Ortiz insists, and it's that he wasn't healthy in any of them.
He injured his back before fighting Couture at UFC 44 in Las Vegas on Sept. 26, 2003, and hasn't been healthy since. After fighting and training through pain, he had surgery to repair his back on Oct. 6, 2008. He was publicly raving about the job that his Las Vegas-based surgeon, William Smith, did in repairing his back during his interviews before he fought Forrest Griffin at UFC 106 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 21, 2009.
Following a split-decision loss in which he was so out of shape that he could barely stand in the third round, Ortiz revealed that he had been injured in training and was suffering from a litany of physical ailments.
"About a month before I fought Forrest, I got bounced on my head when I was wrestling with one of my friends while we were in Big Bear," Ortiz said. "I was going for a single leg and he kind of grabbed me around my butt and dumped me on my head. Basically, he pile drove me into the mat. I was paralyzed for like a minute-and-a-half, two minutes. I couldn't run. I couldn't spar. I couldn't do anything but hit the mitts."
Ortiz, though, said he didn't want to disappoint fans, who had already suffered a disappointment when Lesnar had to back out of an appearance in the main event of 106. As a result, he went forward with the fight.
After the fight, he continued to have problems with his neck, which seemed to worsen as he was coaching on Season 12 of TUF before a scheduled fight with archrival Chuck Liddell. The pain finally became unbearable and Ortiz pulled out of the fight with Liddell.
Smith did surgery on his neck, fusing two vertebrae. Ortiz, finally, says he's healthy and this time, he insists he's not telling a little white lie in an effort to preserve the show.
"I'm never fighting injured again," Ortiz said resolutely. "No way. It's not going to happen. I haven't fought at 100 percent in six years, maybe a little longer. I sacrificed a lot for my family, my fans and the UFC. I love to fight and I always tried to give the best I could and put on entertaining fights. But when your body isn't right, you can't do that.
"There's been a lot that has happened over the years. I battled [UFC president] Dana [White]. I battled the UFC. I did some dumb things. I shouldn't have listened to some of the people around me and I made some bad decisions. I'm putting all of that behind me and forgetting it. The only thing that concerns me now is being healthy and looking toward the future."
And while it seems a stretch to suggest that he can regain a title belt that he hasn't held in more than seven years, Ortiz sells the idea hard. On the countdown show, he said it in a way that only Ortiz can.
"When I crush his [expletive] face in and my hand is raised, I know what the next step is," he said. "That's a chance to get my world title back."
Step away from the reality distortion field that Ortiz often creates before a fight and it seems ludicrous to consider another Ortiz title reign even a remote possibility. The light heavyweight division is stacked with talent and Ortiz hasn't defeated a Top 10 fighter in his prime since he won a split decision over Vitor Belfort at UFC 51 on Feb. 5, 2005.
Listen to him talk for a half hour, though, and you begin to think that, well, crazier things have happened in sports before.
They have, haven't they?