So, what happened to Tito Ortiz?
I will detail his current pursuits later in this article. First I will delve into his childhood. Considering the hardships he faced early on, it makes his successes in life very impressive.
This is an inspiring story of how Tito Ortiz was able to become a millionaire despite growing up with parents that neglected him due to an addiction to heroin.
Tito Ortiz was able to become a UFC Champion, actor, author, and a member of the Huntington Beach City Council despite the odds suggesting he would amount to nothing. As proof by his journey, anything is possible.
In this video, I will discuss his upbringing, his MMA career, and what he is up to now.
Here is how his journey starts. Jacob Ortiz, better known as Tito Ortiz, was born in Huntington Beach on January 23rd, 1975. As mentioned earlier, he had a rough childhood. The challenging times started in 1982. This is where his life transitioned from a normal upbringing to a life of struggle.
In 1982, Tito’s Dad, Samuel Ortiz, had a cyst removed from his tailbone. Samuel Ortiz was in a lot of pain after the operation and the painkillers he received from his doctor weren’t providing adequate relief. He wanted something more potent. So, Samuel Ortiz called his brother, who was not a doctor, to seek advice on pain management. His Brother ended up giving him some heroin. Sadly, you can already see the writing on the wall here.
Once Samuel Ortiz was introduced to heroin, he quickly became addicted. To make matters worse, he gave some to his wife, Joyce. Just like that, both of Tito’s parents were hooked.
Before Tito’s parents developed their addiction, Tito’s Dad was a contractor who owned his own business. His Mom was a stay-at-home Mother. Therefore, the financial well-being of the household relied solely upon that business. Unfortunately, that business went under, once Tito’s Dad started to neglect it in favor of getting high.
Predictably, Tito’s family could not afford to live at their house anymore, so they moved to Santa Ana. Not only did the living situation change, but the food became scarce. According to Tito’s autobiography, between 8 and 9 years old, sometimes he would get so hungry that he would scavenge through people’s trash cans to get food. Even though Tito and his parents moved to Santa Ana, that did not really solve any problems, besides moving out of a house they could no longer afford.
In Santa Ana, Tito did not have a steady home. Tito bounced around a lot between Motels, sleeping in cars, friend’s garages, and trailers. Can you imagine being unaware of where you will be sleeping at each night? Now imagine being 9 years old when faced with these circumstances
Without knowing the middle and end of this story, you would never think this person went on to become a UFC champion. You might also think it could not get any worse. Well… starvation and a lack of shelter will cause some other negative effects.
Since this is not a video solely focused on Tito’s childhood, I will briefly go over the remaining years of it.
To avoid being around his parents, he joined a gang called the F Troop. Although this provided some much-needed friendship, it gave him an affinity for crime. He went to juvenile hall for various offenses like Grand Theft Auto, stealing a bubble gum machine, and assault.
Now, let us get to the positive side of this story…
The moments that changed his life can be traced back to a few events. The first was when his mom got divorced and remarried. The second was discovering a passion for wrestling.
Tito started wrestling as a Freshman in High School.
By his Senior year, he became a California Interscholastic Federation champ, going 56-3 with 36 pins. An impressive record to say the least!
After High School, Tito wrestled at Golden West College and the University of Bakersfield.
The reason I said that Tito’s passion for wrestling changed his life around was because it ultimately gave him his break into MMA. It was his inner circle from wrestling that connected him with Tank Abbott, who was also from Hunting Beach.
Tank Abbott was already established as a UFC veteran by this point. Abbott’s team sought after some wrestlers to introduce into his training camps. Tito Ortiz ended up being that guy to help Abbott train this part of his game.
After this exposure to MMA, it did not take long for Tito to realize that he had the ability to compete at a high level in the sport.
Tito originally wanted to be a teacher after college, to help troubled youth, but his passion for wrestling won over, and he decided to go all-in on mixed martial arts.
When Tito first started his MMA career, his game plan consisted of getting a body lock takedown and then using ground and pound to finish his opponents. Once Tito got his opponents to the mat, they would rarely get back up.
Along with his takedown ability, his other strengths were his ability to recover after getting knocked down, ground and pound from inside the guard, and top control.
Tito was also good at learning from his mistakes. After losing by Guillotine choke to Guy Metzger, he avoided takedown attempts that would put his neck in that vulnerable position. After losing to Frank Shamrock due to cardio issues, he started training at Big Bear, which is over 6500 feet above sea level, to improve his endurance.
A glaring weakness that Tito had was against Judo trips. This is what Randy Couture used to beat him. Another weakness was his getup game. For those who do not know, a get up game refers to the ability to get up after being taken down.
As for Tito’s striking, he never used feints, and he lacked striking volume and striking power. In Tito Ortiz’s 27-fight UFC career he never got a KO or a TKO from a standing strike. Although, he got close in the Ryan Bader fight. None-the-less, those results demonstrate a serious lack of striking power.
As for striking volume, when you eliminate ground and pound numbers, which inflates his striking totals, he averaged under 2 strikes landed per minute. At 2 strikes per minute, that means he is only landing 30 strikes in a 3-round fight. 30 strikes will rarely win you a fight.
With all those weaknesses mentioned above, this made Tito Ortiz rely heavily on takedowns. In fact, he went 1-4 in the UFC when he failed to get a takedown. Luckily for him, he was able to get 58 takedowns in his UFC career, which is the most in UFC Light Heavyweight history. To repeat, Tito Ortiz has the most takedowns in UFC Light Heavyweight history with 58.
As for Tito’s crowning achievement in the Octagon, he capitalized on his second opportunity for the belt. Tito beat Wanderlei Silva.
Surprisingly, he was able to get a knockdown in this fight and used his aforementioned wrestling to cruise to a victory.
Tito Ortiz became a UFC champion!
What made Tito a popular champion was his WWE like persona.
He became known for flame design on his fight shorts, the grave digging post fight celebrations, and his outspoken support for the U.S. Troops.
One contention with Ortiz is that he would wear t-shirts after his fights that would usually have text that insulted his opponents. For example, after beating Guy Mezger at UFC 19, he put on a shirt that said “Gay Mezger is my Bitch”.
One marketing aspect that helped propel Tito Ortiz into a star was his ability to develop feuds. His first one was against the Lion’s Den and Ken Shamrock, then with Chuck Liddell, and finally with Dana White.
What helped Tito become a successful champion was the fact that he was the first fighter to use weight cutting to his advantage. This advantage helped him defend the belt 5 times, which is the 2nd longest consecutive title defenses in the division.
But… let’s take a closer look at those wins.
His first title defense was against Yuki Kondo.
It’s important to note that at this time, the UFC only had two weight classes. These were over 200lbs and under 200 lbs. Tito found a way to get barely under that total at 199lbs. By the time the fight would start, though, Tito was closer to 215lbs.
Yuki Kondo was all but 184lbs going against the 215lbs of Tito Ortiz. That is roughly a 30-pound difference inside the octagon.
Not only was there a size advantage for Tito, but Kondo was only 1-0 in the UFC prior to this fight. All that was needed to get a title shot back in the year 2000 was one impressive win.
Tito was able to use his size, wrestling, and newly found submission ability to get a rare cobra choke.
Tito’s next title defense was against Tanner who was 3-0 in the UFC prior to their matchup.
During this time, the UFC octagon floor didn’t have the ¾” padding that it has today. Back then, the floor was basically plywood and canvas.
The reason I include those details is because Tito was able to knockout his opponent with a slam. This ended up being the fastest knockout in Tito’s UFC career.
For Tito’s 3rd title defense, he beat up on Elvis Sinosic, who was only 1-0 in the UFC at the time. Once again, these competitors could not stop Tito from getting a takedown and then using ground-and-pound from inside the guard.
Tito’s 4th title defense was against an opponent that had better wrestling credentials than him.
Vladimir Matyushenko was the next man up. He was an accomplished freestyle wrestler who won a silver medal in the 1994 European championships, and placed 11th in the 1994 World Championships.
Tito was finally testing his skills against another credentialed wrestler. Fortunately for Tito, Matyushenko had a bad weight cut.
As was a common theme in these title defense bouts, Matyushenko was also only 1-0 in the UFC before getting his title shot.
What ended up being the deciding factor for this fight was cardio. Matyushenko did not showcase enough cardio to be competitive with Tito.
Tito’s 5th and last title defense was against a 38-year-old Ken Shamrock who was far past his athletic prime. After a shaky beginning, Tito was able to recollect himself and dominate the fight.
To recap Tito’s 5 title defenses, he fought 3 people who each only had 1 prior UFC fight. Looking back on this title run, it’s not that impressive considering the lack of UFC experience, age, and future success of his opponents. After Tito beat these 5 title challengers, they collectively went on to go 15-18 in the UFC.
Although these title defenses don’t seem that impressive in hindsight, Tito was limited by the competition level that was available at the time. Essentially, he could only fight who the UFC put in front of him.
After dominating as a UFC champion for over 3 years, the end came abruptly.
One of the most spectacular aspects of the title reign described above is that in Tito’s first 10 UFC fights, he did not get taken down once. This also changed abruptly, as soon as he faced off against Randy Couture.
Tito had faced adversity throughout his entire childhood, but besides recovering from a few knockdowns, he had not faced adversity in the Octagon.
The questions of… well what if Tito faces a wrestler who also has good cardio? What if Tito cannot rely on getting easy takedowns? What if Tito gets taken down? Tito had a chance to respond to these questions by showing he could beat a wrestler with good cardio. He had an opportunity to prove he could win a fight without relying heavily on takedowns, but he failed. He failed to overcome adversity in the Octagon.
It’s worth mentioning that Tito had a bulging disk between his L4 and L5, before facing off against Randy Couture.
In this fight versus Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz got thoroughly dominated even spanked.
Randy Couture used multiple Judo trips and other wrestling techniques to outclass Tito in a one-sided decision.
It was back to the drawing board for Tito.
But he did not have much time to effectively use that proverbial drawing board, because 7 months later he would finally battle his longtime friend and training partner Chuck Liddell. This was a highly anticipated fight, and just as Chuck predicted he knocked out Tito.
Tito was not able to offensively wrestle against Chuck’s legendary sprawl and Tito did not have the kickboxing credentials to stand and trade. It was a lose-lose situation for Tito.
Fast forward to 2006, Tito was newly divorced and was promoting his upcoming rematch with an even older Ken Shamrock.
As a side note, these last two Shamrock fights were so uncompetitive that they should not have even been sanctioned. To speculate, I believe Shamrock saw a 40+ year old Couture beat Ortiz and thought, if he can do it then it is possible for me to do the same. As Shamrock would later figure out, not all 40-year-old athletes are created equal.
None-the-less, the story here is that Tito was at the Hard Rock hotel doing his promotional duties and walked past Jenna Jameson. They made strong and charismatic eye contact with each other. Sometime later, Jenna Jameson sent Tito a friend request on Myspace.
According to Tito in his autobiography, he was nervous in his initial social interactions with the porn star.
After his win against Shamrock, Tito invited Jameson to a nightclub for his post-fight celebration.
Tito was a little brash at first, a way to overcompensate for his nervousness, which turned Jameson off. What won her over was when Tito invited her to a county fair. Jenna admitted to being smitten after this.
Everything started well at first as most relationships do. Jenna Jameson retired from pornography. They had a monogamous relationship. They were both wealthy and young.
Tito even allowed Jameson to handle his UFC contract negotiations.
2 years into that relationship, Jameson was pregnant with twins. It was at this time that Jameson started to get pregnancy induced migraines that were debilitating.
Tito told the San Diego Tribune that Jameson was taking morphine during her pregnancy. Jameson denies this claim, but she did give birth to her twins 7 weeks prematurely.
Tito Ortiz’s relationship with Jenna Jameson fell apart due to Jameson’s alleged OxyContin addiction.
On VLAD TV, Ortiz said that Jameson spent 8 million dollars on drugs in a 4-year period. This devastated Tito.
Ortiz saw his family become destitute when his Father became addicted to heroin and now he was seeing Jameson become addicted herself. He wanted to do everything in his power to prevent this from happening to his children.
In 2010, Tito faced domestic violence charges for allegedly pushing Jameson into a bathtub. Jameson allegedly suffered torn ligaments in her shoulder from the altercation. Tito recounted that he was trying to pack his things and leave for good, but Jameson, who was high on drugs at the time, kept grabbing him and begging him to stay. Tito denied the allegations that he shoved her.
Even with all this drama, for years, Tito tried to salvage this relationship. The stress it caused affected his performances in the Octagon. Tito couldn’t focus on training without worrying about how the twins were doing at home with Jameson and a nanny.
While enduring these relationship problems, Tito went 1-6 in the UFC. The one fight Tito won was against Ryan Bader.
Considering all the difficult contract negotiations with the UFC in the past, and his losing streak, he on his last leg with the UFC. Dana confirmed that if Tito were to lose to Bader, he would have gotten cut from the UFC.
For his matchup against Bader, Tito changed his training camp. He decided to work with Jason Parillo at the RVCA training center.
Although Tito was able to win after this camp switch, his personal issues still weighed on him.
According to Jason Parillo, in the San Diego Tribune: “The level of competition Tito used to be able to compete at, it was mental. All confidence. When you are in a toxic relationship, if you are text-message fighting with somebody eight hours a day, it affects your confidence in all areas of your life. The confidence affects the fighting.”
Parillo pulled no punches to get his fighter’s head back in the game, telling him, “Tito, you have got to take your soul out of that girl’s purse. She has got your soul. You don’t have it anymore.”
Shortly after Tito Ortiz’s UFC career ended in 2012, he and Jenna Jameson separated.
Although Tito’s UFC career didn’t end well, he still went 15-12 in the promotion. He managed to have a winning record despite his neck, back, and knee surgeries.
He is a member of the UFC Hall of Fame, which made him the ninth inductee of the prestigious title.
He had a career resurgence in Bellator, going 3-1, after his UFC tenure.
Bellator also paid him quite handsomely at $300k per fight. That’s not a bad payday after departing from the UFC.
He is still contracted for two more fights with the Combatas Global MMA promotion. Although, he has not fought since December of 2019.
Aside from fighting, a year after separating from Jenna Jameson, Ortiz began dating Amber Nicole Miller. She was a UFC octagon girl whom he had met early in his career. They started talking while he was in Las Vegas one day, and for the first time in a while, he felt like he had found someone who understood him. The two of them are still dating, as of this writing.
As for his businesses, he still has his Punishment Athletics MMA equipment & apparel business.
Out of seemingly nowhere, he started a political career as a City Council member of Huntington Beach. Tito Ortiz was elected to the Huntington Beach city council in November of 2020 with the most votes in city history with close to 35,000 votes according to NBC Los Angeles.
Ortiz’s political career immediately started to develop controversies. According to Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr “Mr. Ortiz has failed to perform at a level expected for this position and has demonstrated little commitment to serving in the role with honor and dignity”.
In November of 2020, Ortiz was so adamant about not wearing a mask at a city council meeting held in a library that Carr barred him from the building.
Sadly, Tito also filed for unemployment in February of 2021, even though he still held a position on the City Council. According to the OC Register, on the portion of the unemployment application that asks for a “reason for separation,” Ortiz listed, “Still working part-time or on-call – related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).”
What was surprising to me is that part-time City Council members only get $779 every two weeks, according to Huntington Beach City Manager Oliver Chi.
One can only speculate on the state of Tito’s finances, but filing for unemployment is a bad sign.
To date, he has made well over $5.5 million dollars in his fighting career. He has also made an undisclosed amount in the 11 movies listed on IMDB that he has had acting roles in.
The healthiest sign of his maintained wealth, is that he owns a multi-million dollar house in Huntington Harbor.
In closing, Tito has recently resigned from the Huntington Beach City Council. He is in the best long-term relationship he has ever been in, with Amber Nicole Miller. He is slated to play Ringo in a Western film that is currently in pre-production and is expected to be released in 2022.
For the most part, he is doing quite well for himself. Certainly, he is doing better than most. I’ll be interested to see where Tito ventures off to next, considering professional wrestling hasn’t panned out yet, his MMA career seems done, and his political career ended rather shortly.
For more content like this, you can read my article on what happened to Travis Browne.