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Why Tito Ortiz decided to accept UFC 133 bout with Rashad Evans

Ortiz came to the rescue of the UFC after Phil Davis suffered an injury

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Justin M. Bowen

Tito Ortiz celebrates after beating Ryan Bader in a main card bout at UFC 132 Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Ortiz snapped a near five-year winless streak with the win.

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For a man who has made a career out of being instinctual in every situation, Tito Ortiz is hoping his initial reaction to fighting at Saturday’s UFC 133 was wrong.

Ortiz originally turned down the opportunity to face Rashad Evans in the Philadelphia card’s main event. He was a week removed from a career-revitalizing victory against Ryan Bader when UFC President Dana White asked him to replace the injured Phil Davis and take on Evans.

Ortiz said he wanted more time off after a prolonged 10-week training camp and was concerned about having too little time, less than a month, to prepare for a competitor of Evans’ caliber.

“After I beat Bader, I was on top of the world, I felt,” he said. “I wanted to indulge in the glory. I took a week off. I came home. I was relaxed and able to watch TV. Dana gave me a call, but I was with my family.”

It took all of eight or nine hours for Ortiz to start rethinking why he didn’t want to fight. As he went to bed, Ortiz began to run through the positives a matchup against Evans could bring.

Ortiz discussed taking the bout with longtime girlfriend Jenna Jameson and his coaches at Punishment Training Center, the gym he owns in Huntington Beach, Calif. They all came to a consensus.

“We kind of just said, ‘You know what? Let’s do this. Here’s an opportunity that we’re never going to have again,’ ” Ortiz said. “Dana asked me to help him out; they needed my help and I wanted to show them I was a businessman for them.”

Ortiz shocked White by calling him back and accepting the late-notice bout. A new main event was born.

But Ortiz still had his doubts — momentarily. Any apprehension withered away as soon as he returned to training, Ortiz said.

The punches he threw felt more powerful than before. He felt his boxing had reached a level it never neared before. His trademark wrestling was as sharp as ever, too.

“When I got back in the gym, I had the hunger again,” Ortiz said. “When I was trying to find the energy to fulfill things, (coaches) would be like, ‘Tito, you remember what it felt like to win?’ And all of a sudden I’d have balls of energy in my body. I’d feel that influence and reinforcement of knowing, ‘God, that did feel good to win.’ ”

The victory against Bader snapped what was close to a five-year winless stretch for Ortiz and ensured his at-risk roster spot with the UFC. It also boosted the 36-year-old’s confidence like never before.

Even Evans, who had known Ortiz for years and fought him to a draw at UFC 73, could sense a renewed feeling from his opponent on a recent conference call.

“He’s believing in himself a little more,” Evans said. “I expect to see Tito Ortiz re-energized.”

Ortiz’s self-belief is what made it possible to put together the main event between two former champions. Submitting Bader in less than two minutes is all Ortiz thinks he needed to get his career back on track.

“That’s something Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones couldn’t do,” Ortiz said of the light heavyweight champion’s fight against Bader. “It’s just one of those things that I’m riding on the success. I’m riding on something positive and it’s motivation knowing that I have the heart, the will, the mind and the body to compete against the best guys in the world.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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