Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz, recently spoke with Wrestling Inc.’s own President, Raj Giri, about his fight with the Combate Americanas promotion against former WWE Champion, Alberto Del Rio. Tito also made note of how he’s a dedicated fan of pro wrestling both past and present.
Fellow UFC fighter, Cain Velasquez, recently stepped into a WWE ring for his first match to compete against Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at Crown Jewel 2019. The match between Cain and Brock was brief and criticized by some for how inexperienced Velasquez looked as a pro wrestler. From the highlights Ortiz saw, he would agree with those critics.
“I didn’t [get to watch the full match] but I did get to see a little bit of the highlights,” Ortiz explained. “I didn’t get an opportunity just because I was at the Marine Ball for the Wounded Warrior Battalion here in the West Battalion here in California. I’m a huge supporter of our troops so I got an opportunity to watch it. But some of my friends told me a few things about [their match] and they said it was interesting. I still think Cain is a little green behind the ears when it comes to professional wrestling. I guess he’s got to go through it all a little more; I know Brock is a monster. But yeah, I didn’t get an opportunity to watch it myself though.”
Ortiz revealed to Wrestling Inc. listeners the details about his experience backstage with WWE in the early 2000’s. Ortiz even had an audition of sorts where he had an exchange on the microphone with the Brooklyn Brawler, however, he believes he missed the mark with his character development.
“I did [have talks with WWE] back in 2002 / 2003. I believe it was at Seattle at WrestleMania; it was ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin versus The Rock and they brought me backstage. I was still in awe that The Rock was there, and Stone Cold was there, and Brock was there, and I was more of a fan than in my attitude of a fighter,” Ortiz said. “They put me on the mic with I believe it was Brooklyn Brawler, and I had a little interview with him and I think he caught me off guard.
“I was a polite, politically correct person outside of the cage as I always am and I think I didn’t catch their attention good enough. If I would have understood that it was a chance to get my foot in the door as a pro wrestler, I think I might have been a little more over the top with how my character likes to fight.”
Ortiz has appeared in other pro wrestling companies before, including appearances with TNA/Impact Wrestling in 2005 and 2013. One of the fondest memories he takes with him from these times was meeting Hulk Hogan.
“I got the opportunity to be with TNA/Impact Wrestling with AJ Styles and Jeff Jarrett. I can’t believe I had a hard time remembering Jeff Jarrett’s name because I crushed him in his face, and I really punched him and knocked him out,” Ortiz said. “And then AJ Styles got the match, and won the belt, and became the champion that night. It was fun, it was a lot of fun and I loved it a lot. Then I got another opportunity with TNA Wrestling with Hulk Hogan and Dixie Carter, and I got an opportunity to talk with the Hulk for probably about two hours. The similarities in our personalities were really, really, almost exactly the same. It was a very warm, comforting feeling to get to talk to Hulk Hogan during the time I did. He was a great man and after the little bit of conversation we had, he was just like, ‘Brother! You would do wonderful in this sport if you ever competed.'”
Hulk’s inspiring words planted a seed in his head that has continued to grow to this day. Ortiz feels confident that opportunities in pro wrestling would be present if he decided to finally make that transition.
“It just put a spark in my brain like, ‘Wow, that could have been an opportunity.’ And that opportunity could still factor into my future; you never know,” Ortiz said. “I watched Ken Shamrock on a highlight video, and he wrestled, and made a comeback. I was like, ‘Wow, at his age he made a comeback.’ I’m young, I still feel young; I feel younger than I did when I was thirty and I’m 43 right now.
“Can I have that opportunity? Yes! Can I put myself in the situation? Yes! Would the competitors be able to compete against me? Maybe not! Maybe I would not be able to find the differences between a professional fight and a professional wrestling match,” Tito continued. “Maybe I’ll get them mixed up and I’ll end up choking the guy out or knock the guy out for real. But it may be fun doing it. Right now, my number one goal is to beat Alberto Del Rio on December 7th, live on pay-per-view. That’s my goal; I’m putting in the work, I’m training four times a day and five times a week, twice on Saturdays, and Sundays I take off.”
Tito’s full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post.