Sunday, July 3, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
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UFC veteran Tito Ortiz wasn’t supposed to be answering this question. Ryan Bader was.
But there sat Ortiz talking to the media Saturday at the MGM Grand following his first-round submission victory against Bader in a light heavyweight match at UFC 132 to snap a five-match losing streak, rejuvenating his career.
Bader closed as a -550 betting favorite and several believed the fading Ortiz didn’t stand a chance. Fittingly, the 36-year-old Ortiz was given an ultimatum by UFC President Dana White: win or be cut from the organization, which would essentially end his storied career.
So, Ortiz won. And, more importantly when it comes to the UFC, he won in style.
About two hours after the win, and with Ortiz still sporting a smile from ear-to-ear, he was asked the question every fighter hears after a big victory — who do you want to fight next?
While Saturday night's outcome might be surprising for some, Ortiz is again a player in the 205-pound division.
“When negativity brings you down, you have to find something to uplift you and make you stronger to get past those downfalls in life,” he said of his recent struggles.
Ortiz won by submission at the 1:56 mark of the first round, flooring Bader with a powerful right hand and finishing him off with a guillotine. Bader (12-2, 5-2 UFC) was forced to tap out and the victory later earned Ortiz the Submission of the Night bonus of $75,000.
The capacity crowd of nearly 13,000, with several chanting Ortiz’s name throughout the fight, roared in approval as the fighter several consider to be a legend showed a glimpse of past glory.
“Everybody knew that Tito had to win tonight to stay in the UFC,” White said. “And he did it. Not only did he win the fight, he won the fight impressively. You know, dropping the younger, stronger and who many people thought had better hands (fighter). Dropping Bader and then submitting him.”
Bader, a Reno native who opened his career with 12 consecutive victories and captured “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 crown, couldn’t recover after being caught with Ortiz’s big right.
“I just woke up in a guillotine. I got rocked with a big punch and next thing you know, I was in a guillotine,” Bader said. “I thought I was doing well with my footwork, but I talked to my coaches and realized I made some mistakes.”
Ortiz was 0-4-1 in his last five fights and had struggled to regain his top form after major surgeries on his back and neck. Now, he feels fully recovered.
“The surgeries I have gone through, athletes don’t come back from. They are done,” he said. “Not me. I have too much drive. I have too much to live for in this life. I am going to live this life to the fullest. Tonight it starts.”
Ortiz (16-8-1), who made his debut in 1997 at UFC 13, holds several of the organization’s light heavyweight records highlighted by five successful title defenses. Thanks to a classic submission Saturday, he’ll have a chance to add to those marks.
For as bad as Ortiz has looked in recent years, his popularity — as witnessed by the pro-Ortiz crowd — has never been in question. He made it clear he’s ready and willing to take on the best.
“I want to fight the top guys,” he said. “I want to fight guys with big names. I want to give the fans what they want to see. Tonight, I made a stepping stone out of Ryan Bader, and he said he was going to make a stepping stone out of me. You aren’t going to step on this.”