When I first got the opportunity to interview UFC Hall of Famer and MMA legend Tito Ortiz I was excited, then scared. Being new to reporting on the sport of Mixed Martial Arts I had the misconception that Tito was a control freak who would probably never let me ask a question.
I was worried about this interview, after all he was a legend and while I had interviewed everyone from President Obama to Johnny Depp to Ron Wood from the Rolling Stones, here it was an MMA fighter who made me nervous, very nervous. It was not a place a veteran journalist often finds themselves and while I tried to shake it off I could not.
Being the crazy researcher I am I read his book twice and then proceeded to spend a full day reading every article and blog I could find on him. I must have watched dozens and dozens of old and new videos, as well as listening to every radio program he had been on. I became obsessed with his twitter, checking it to make sure I did not miss something. My theory was like a good girl scout I would be prepared and therefore I would not be anxious! By the time I started the interview, I felt more like a beginner than an expert in my field.
Those who know me and have worked with me in TV would have been shocked, I was sweating as he answered the phone looking more like the anchor Aaron Altman famously portrayed by actor Albert Brooks in the 1987 movie “Broadcast News”. In true Cingari style, I am known to be brutally honest, many a television cameraman would say it is a trait that endears me to the person I am interviewing as it makes me look real and this interview was no exception.
So here is how I started my interview with Tito… “I read your book it says you get emotional sometimes before you fight. I’m not sure if I should throw up or cry, you are a big name in MMA” and then I put my hand over my mouth and stopped abruptly. Like a judge had silenced me in a crowded courtroom, embarrassed and ashamed that I had blurted out what was clearly unprofessional, I expected him to hang up. What did he do? He laughed loudly a big laugh! Tito was laughing, then I started laughing and the journalist mode kicked in, I was off and running.
I now see why people adore him, fans worship him and fighters fear him. He is tough, but soft, a complex sort of guy. Inside I think he is like many of us we just want to be loved by the masses to some degree, hey I hope you like this story?
His candid interview was a breath of fresh air; he was not what I had thought at all. He was honest and above all his values were simple: respect, honor and to provide for his kids a better life. When I asked him how he wanted to be remembered his response was clear:
“I’d like to be remembered as a person who always gave back, no matter what the pros and cons were. Help the sport of MMA to grow what it is today. Always helped others, not stepping on people to get ahead. To be honest, loyal, a hard worker, someone who’s been dedicated through his whole career, 17 years, and no matter what injuries. Whatever sidetracked me I kept focused and to take care of my family.”
“Just to be honest, to be as honest as possible. I’m a real person who’s worked hard and who’s pushed through so many challenges in life that I’ve been successful. I know of people who’ve had the same type of challenges and who couldn’t succeed, just because they didn’t have any self-gratification or self-fulfillment knowing they could do it. I went through so many of those things in my own life that I just never stopped believing. I just never said No, there is never quit in my whole life. I just always strive to better myself each and every day. Every day I woke up I said, What can I do to better myself today? Even if it’s just helping somebody out, or just pushing myself to the next level.”
Of course I asked him about Bonnar, remember I spent the whole day researching the subject and I knew this was a hot button so to speak. When he answered me you could hear it in his voice he was hurt:
“When he talks about my family, he talks about my fans. I take that very personally. My fans have been there with me since the beginning. Seventeen years of competitions and my fans have watched me lose, and watched me win, and watched me win World Titles.”
“They’ve seen the ups and downs through a lot of relationships that I have had. When someone talks about my family, that’s where the lines are crossed. I grabbed the microphone, and I tried to say something, and I was so angry, it was just like, I don’t know, if you’ve seen the movie Popeye when Brutus blinked his eyes and saw complete red. That’s what I saw, I saw complete red and I just … and I had to put my hands on him, and I had to shove him or do something.”
In the end he is Tito Ortiz, love him or hate him, he is a powerful force to be reckoned with and while to some he may seem to be larger than life, this reporter found him to be all about life and speaking the truth.
You can catch my 3 audios interview with Tito here
And check out the full Audio here:
My thanks to UFC Hall of Famer,Tito Ortiz. You can follow Tito on Twitter @titoortiz
You can see Bellator 131 on November 15, 2014
Light Heavyweight Feature Fight: Tito Ortiz (17-11) vs. Stephan Bonnar (15-8)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Michael Chandler (12-2) vs. Will Brooks (14-1)
Light Heavyweight Feature Fight: King Mo (13-4) vs. Joe Vedepo (17-8)