To look at Tito Ortiz now, you'd assume he bullied his share of classmates at Huntington Beach High School.
But the retired UFC champion, MMA Hall of Famer and "Bad Boy of Huntington Beach" is coming back to his alma mater to advocate the exact opposite, speaking on behalf of a national anti-bullying campaign.
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Ortiz will appear at a Huntington Beach High assembly today to share his anti-bullying views, as well as those of his former boss, UFC founder Dana White, who will show via video. It's part of an anti-bullying campaign launched by Santa Ana-based LA Boxing and its fitness franchises to coincide with October being National Bully Prevention Month. The school assembly "seeks to spread awareness of the growing epidemic and give solutions to both kids being bullied and the bullies that continue to terrorize them, such as exercise as a healthy outlet for anger and aggression," reads an email from LA Boxing.
"Bullying is an epidemic in this country," explains Keith Williams, LA Boxing's marketing director. "It's our goal show these kids that some of the toughest guys in the world fight for many reasons, but never do it to be a bully."
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Also participating in the campaign is another local MMA legend, Irvine's Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, as well as former lightweight boxing champion "Razor" Rob McCullough, five-time welterweight champ Zab Judah and current UFC fighter Michael "The Count" Bisping.
In addition to school assemblies, 75 LA Boxing gyms across the country are opening their doors to young people who want to take a free class to help defend themselves or to just to talk to someone about bullying. The company says it wants to impress upon kids "that fighting should only happen within the confines of regulated combat sports," and that "a gym is a great way to connect with people, young and old, who can show a different perspective, and possibly provide a solution that doesn't involve confrontation."
LA Boxing sponsors the website BullyFight.com that allows youths to share their own videos about how bullying has affected them.