Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011 | 4 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA — It’s unclear whether Tito Ortiz plans to emulate Rocky Balboa and run up the 72 steps outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art before his UFC 133 bout against Rashad Evans on Saturday.
The 36-year-old Ortiz has spent plenty of time comparing himself to the City of Brotherly Love’s most famous fictional character. The juxtaposition has annoyed Evans.
“He can say, ‘this is my Rocky moment and I’m inspired by Rocky’ all that he wants to,” Evans said at Wednesday’s open workouts. “‘Rocky’ was a movie, man. There ain’t going to be a movie or cameras or someone saying, ‘cut, let’s do that scene again so Rocky can win.’”
Despite a 14-month layoff and several significant career changes, Evans (15-1-1 MMA, 10-1-1 UFC) is beyond confident he’ll beat Ortiz (16-8-1 MMA, 15-8-1 UFC) in the pay-per-view main event at the Wells Fargo Center. Some would argue it’s to the point of cockiness.
Evans doesn’t think a first-round submission victory over Ryan Bader last month salvaged Ortiz’s career. The 31-year-old Evans puts more stock into the five-year winless streak the former light heavyweight champion endured before the Bader victory.
“Tito is not the same fighter he was,” Evans said. “To me, in my mind, he lost the whole ‘wow, that’s Tito Ortiz.’ He’s not been very consistent. Sometimes he’ll look good. Sometimes he’ll look bad. He fell from that level.”
As thankful as Evans was for Ortiz filling the void left by a Phil Davis injury at the top of the card, this isn’t a matchup that necessarily excites him. He described a victory over Ortiz as “not even close” to meaning what it would have three or four years ago.
That’s when Evans strongly desired a fight with Ortiz. The UFC and Ortiz both promised him an immediate rematch after the two fought to a unanimous draw at UFC 73 in July 2007.
The next matchup never came to fruition, however, as Ortiz dealt with injuries in the months following and the UFC matched Evans with current middleweight Michael Bisping. Evans remembered being heartbroken.
“I was so disappointed,” Evans said. “It kind of messed me up in training for Bisping because I had my mind set on fighting Tito so much.”
The level of disappointment wore off a little more with each subsequent loss Ortiz suffered. It also helped that Evans ran off a three-fight win streak, including a split decision over Bisping, to seize the belt Ortiz once owned.
At this point, Evans just doesn’t see Ortiz as an equal in the 205-pound division rankings. Evans thinks he’s at the very top, while Ortiz belongs somewhere in the middle.
Ortiz has concocted his own theory as to why Evans is so adamant about his superiority.
“I see a lot of self-doubt,” Ortiz said. “I took Psychology 101 in college. I understand a person’s feedback and how they react to questions and how they react to things.”
Ortiz sees the pressure on Evans as monumental. If Evans wins, he’ll retain his status as the top contender and face the winner of the UFC 135 championship bout between Jon Jones and Rampage Jackson.
Ortiz also opined that Evans is more concerned than he let on about going into his first major fight without the help of renowned trainer Greg Jackson.
“Tito can believe what he wants to and use whatever he wants to get motivated,” Evans said.
“I don’t think he’s as quick as he used to be. I don’t think he’s as explosive as he used to be. I think you can see his age. The first thing that starts to go as you get older is your footwork. I think his footwork is a little bit slower than it was.”