|Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and brother Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at the UFC presser Thursday December 8, 2011. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
It took Tito Ortiz four hours, but he was finally able to convince UFC president Dana White that his new nickname should be ‘The People’s Champ.’
Formerly ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,’ Ortiz was one of the sports most polarizing figures — a cocky trash talker who also happened to be, arguably, the best fighter on the planet during his prime. But Ortiz said he let negativity be his guiding light for too long.
“When it’s fight time, I’ve got my poker face on,” Ortiz said at the UFC 140 pre-fight press conference Thursday. “That bad boy is still in the cage when it’s fight time.
Ortiz will get to hear ring announcer Bruce Buffer belt out his new nickname when he meets Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 140 Saturday at the Air Canada Centre. Since both are coming off losses, this is a must-win fight for Ortiz ... and Nogueira.
Ortiz saved his career in July with a stunning submission victory over Ryan Bader. However, one month later, he suffered a TKO loss to Rashad Evans. As for Nogueira, he’s struggled with wrestlers in his last two outings, dropping decisions to Bader and Phil Davis.
Nogueira said he knows his back is to the wall.
“For sure, this is a very important fight,” Nogueira said through his translator. “I lost my last two fights. I’ve wanted to fight Tito for a long time now and I’m not going to let this opportunity go by me.”
Not only is Nogueira looking to pull off a victory for the sake of his own career, he hopes to inspire his twin brother, Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira, who fights Frank Mir later that night.
“It’s going to be a special night,” Rogerio said. “We have two tough fights that night. But since I fight first, I have the opportunity to put on a great show and really motivate my brother. I think I will be able to do that.”
Though Ortiz knows he needs a good performance Saturday night, the silver lining is that he’s been able to compete three times in one year for the first time since 2006. After competing for years with neck and back injuries, Ortiz went under the knife earlier this year to correct the issues.
“I think the first bit of satisfaction comes from fighting three times in a year,” Ortiz said. “And for coming off neck and back surgery. I’m very thankful to the surgeon because I’m able to train.
“I worked really hard for this fight and I’m going to swing for the fences. I’m just really excited to be fighting three times in a year.
“Nogueira is one of the best in the world and I’m happy to compete against him.”