You may think you know Tito Ortiz from his legendary MMA bouts, or possibly from his infamous split with Jenna Jameson, but that's not what the current Tito Ortiz is all about.
At this point, Ortiz's legacy in MMA is secure. He could never step into a cage again and still go down as one of the most important fighters of all time. What he wants now (aside from feeling a championship belt around his waist one more time) is to continue on the path he's been on for the last couple of years.
"I've made my mistakes, but I'm a stronger person because of them. I've learned from my mistakes, and I'll never make the same mistakes twice. Whether they're personal mistakes, athletic mistakes, mistakes in a relationship, mistakes in a fight, I'm never going to make those mistakes again," Ortiz says. "My life has been so good for the last two years. I don't feel the pain of life like I used to. Everything is so peaceful now."
Ortiz, 40, believes that his new peaceful life is largely due to his new girlfriend, former UFC Octagon girl Amber Nichole Miller. Miller's presence has not only helped Ortiz, but also his three children from previous relationships.
"My girlfriend saved my life. I wasn't being responsible for my own actions," Ortiz says. "In my last relationship, I was trying to save someone who didn't want to be saved. I needed someone to save me."
These days, Ortiz believes he's a better fighter than he's been in quite a while, and his record shows it. The former UFC Light Heavyweight champion went 2-0 in Bellator MMA in 2014, whereas he'd only won one fight since October 2006 before that.
Aside from the new stage of his life that Ortiz has entered personally, the Huntington Beach-based fighter says that he's enjoying his time in Bellator as well, because they're giving him the respect he deserves, whereas the UFC was always doing their best to paint him as a bad guy. For Ortiz, respect has always been a very important aspect of his life, and it's one of the main things he preaches to his children.
"Everything I do, it's all for my kids," Ortiz says. "In our family, we teach respect, manners and hard work. Society really throws manners to the wayside, but we really focus on that. I don't want my kids to grow up like I did."
The upbringing Ortiz is looking to avoid repeating was certainly anything but easy. His parents had substance abuse issues, and his mother left his father when Ortiz was 13. Ortiz, a wrestling standout at Huntington Beach High School, spent much of his time as a teenager split between training hard in the wrestling room and getting into trouble in the streets.
Upon graduating from high school, Ortiz says his stepfather gave him $100 and told him "to go be a man." That's when Ortiz began working for a moving service, until the wrestling coaches from Golden West College asked if he was interested in going back to wrestling.
"I had been out partying with my friends all weekend, and I looked in the mirror one day and I didn't recognize myself," Ortiz says. "I realized that I was turning into my parents, and I knew I didn't want to do that. I slept the rest of that day, and then the next day I called my boss and told him I needed the day off to check out the school. He told me they needed me at work, and if I missed work I'd be fired. So I left my job and walked into the office at Golden West College that day."
Ortiz was both an All-American and the state champion for both of his years at Golden West College, but that's also where he found his next passion, mixed martial arts.
"I was (early UFC fighter) Tank Abbott's wrestling partner, and I told him I wanted to start fighting," Ortiz says. "At the time, there were only two divisions in the UFC, light heavyweight and heavyweight. I competed as an amateur at UFC 13. I'm still the only person to compete in the UFC without getting paid, because I had to keep my college scholarship."
At UFC 13, Ortiz won his first fight in 32 seconds before getting submitted in his second match later that night. He was hooked on MMA, and the rest of his career is well-documented history.
Of course, Ortiz's MMA career became a little overshadowed about five years ago when he was arrested for domestic violence after accusations from Jameson. Nothing ever became of the charges, and Ortiz now has full custody of their children since the two split, but the fighter believes that some people didn't even want to read the truth after the event unfolded.
"People didn't see the truth that came out. They were too focused on the negatives that were all over the news. That was in 2009, and I still get some companies that won't sponsor me because of it," Ortiz says. "There was a lot of bad publicity from when Jenna and I were together and after, and people see that and think that's who I am. I'm a respectful man, I've never laid a hand on a woman. I don't want my kids to learn about it and think I really did that to their mom."
Bellator 136 takes place at Irvine's Bren Events Center on April 10 and tickets are still available, but Ortiz will not be fighting on the card.
For more information about Ortiz, check out his Twitter account, @titoortiz.