“Finally, and thank God,” Ortiz said of the career-saving victory on a UFC conference call. “You can’t explain the emotions … my heart was so touched knowing I am still one of the guys on top. I’ve always thought that in my mind. Even before the fight, people asked me: ‘Where do you see yourself?’ For sure, I’m one of the top five in the world.
“When that fight was over with, I looked at it and was like: ‘The hard work paid off and let’s keep doing this hard work.’ ”
Ortiz is wasting no time getting right back into the thick of things, replacing injured Phil Davis for a rematch with Evans in the main event Aug. 6.
The UFC 133 card has been plagued by injuries. So far, seven fighters been gotten hurt during training and been forced to withdraw.
Ortiz initially turned down the fight, but realized the opportunity was too good to pass up. The way he sees, all the momentum is in his corner and the pressure is on Evans.
“Rashad’s the No. 1 contender, man, this is his time to shine,” Ortiz said. “All the pressure’s on him. He’s supposed to beat Tito Ortiz. I’m here to show why I’m still here, man, and I’ve been here since 1997. I ain’t going anywhere any time soon.
“On the sixth, it will be fight time. We’re going to see whose hand gets raised and I know for a fact it’s going to be mine.”
While Ortiz is looking to keep his momentum rolling with an impressive victory in Philadelphia, Evans will be trying to get back on track after a 14-month hiatus.
A combination of injuries and questionable business decisions kept Evans on the sidelines.
Following a unanimous-decision victory over Quinton (Rampage) Jackson at UFC 114, he was promised a shot against then-champ Mauricio (Shogun) Rua. When Rua required knee surgery, Evans opted not to take another fight. The two were again scheduled to meet at UFC 128 in March, but Evans had to back out due to a knee injury.
After all that time off, Evans admitted he’s just glad to have an opponent.
“I’m very anxious to get back in the cage,” Evans said. “I’m just happy to get back in there and I’m happy Tito Ortiz took the fight.
“But these 14 months have helped me to miss mixed martial arts a lot. I almost had a taste of going in there to fight, but had it taken away … I’ve been out of the cage for so long that I’ve been having dreams about it.”
UFC president Dana White has said a victory for Evans means a title shot against the winner of the bout between Jon Jones and Jackson and even hinted the same could be true for Ortiz, despite his infamous losing skid.
In their first fight at UFC 73 four years ago, Ortiz was penalized a point for repeatedly grabbing the fence. Since the judges awarded him two of the three rounds, the deduction resulted in scores of 28-28 across the board.
Evans said he hopes to fix what he considers a blemish on his record.
“I felt horrible about the performance; I’ve felt horrible about the performance for years,” Evans said. “It’s one of those fights you just want to get back. I was just young and inexperienced at that level. I really didn’t get my mind wrapped around the situation until it was a little too late, but I’m a long ways away from that right now.”
Though Ortiz would have won if it weren’t for the infraction, he said the rematch is a brand new fight and little can be taken from their first encounter.
“I think Rashad is a lot different; he’s gotten a lot better as a fighter,” Ortiz said. “From that fight to his last fight against Rampage, his shots are a lot better and he’s a lot faster.
“I’ve gotten a lot better. My boxing skills, of course, and my wrestling takedowns and defence have gotten better. I’ve gotten stronger without having any injuries anymore. It’s nice to not have a back problem and get out of bed and want to train.
“Now that I’ve got everything fixed, I’m hungry. I don’t feel like a 40-year-old man anymore.”
This and that
Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem will fight in October, but not under the Zuffa banner. He’s agreed to compete on a United Glory card in Moscow. United Glory is operated by Overeem’s management company, Golden Glory, and features both MMA and kickboxing bouts. Guess things aren’t so peachy between him and Zuffa after all …Rich Franklin’s life story is going to hit the big screen. No word yet on whether Franklin lookalike Jim Carrey has signed on to play the lead role … K-1, the world’s largest kickboxing promotion, has been purchased by Barbizon Co. Ltd., a Japanese real estate firm. Fingers crossed they can bring it off life support.