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Retirement will bring its benefits for Tito Ortiz after UFC 148

Ortiz’s Hall of Fame induction scheduled for Saturday ahead of trilogy bout with Forrest Griffin

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UFC light heavyweight Tito Ortiz puts in his mouth guard during a news conference and media workout Thursday, July 5, 2012, in advance of UFC 148.

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UFC light heavyweights Forrest Griffin, left, and Tito Ortiz face off during a news conference and media work out Thursday, July 5, 2012 in advance of UFC 148.

UFC 148: Workout

Middleweight champion Anderson Silva smiles during a news conference and media work out Thursday, July 5, 2012 in advance of UFC 148. Launch slideshow »

When the questions at Thursday’s UFC 148 press conference turned personal, Tito Ortiz turned emotional.

A reporter asked Ortiz about bolting on his training camp a few weeks ago when his 10-year-old son Jacob fell ill with meningitis. Ortiz paused and stood up before offering a response.

“You trying to make me cry?” Ortiz asked.

No one would have batted an eye at XS Nightclub if Ortiz broke down with a few tears. The media engagement was another emotional moment in a week full of them for the 37-year-old former light heavyweight champion.

Ortiz (16-10-1 MMA, 15-10-1 UFC) will retire after his UFC 148 co-main event against old foe Forrest Griffin (18-7 MMA, 9-5 UFC), leaving the UFC as a Hall of Famer and record-holder for most fights in the octagon.

“One-hundred percent, I’m done,” Ortiz said when asked if he would ever consider a comeback like so many other retired fighters. “I’ve done what I wanted to do.”

Despite only winning one of his last eight fights, Ortiz isn’t walking away from the octagon because he feels unable to compete. The anecdote about his oldest son shines some light on the foremost reason for his retirement.

Between Jacob and his 3-year-old twins Jesse and Journey Jette, he’s tired of missing parts of their lives to pursue his fighting career. He wants to spend more time around them, a goal he’ll first tackle with a month-long vacation after the fight with Griffin.

“I’ve sacrificed being away from my family for nine weeks to prepare for this fight,” Ortiz said. “And I’ve prepared for 15 years to get to where I am today.”

He’s proud and at peace with what he’s accomplished in the sport. Ortiz won the 205-pound division’s championship belt in 2000.

He defended the strap five straight times, which is a record for the light heavyweight class. Current champion Jon Jones is at three defenses and considers Ortiz the greatest light heavyweight champion in the promotion’s history.

“Tito Ortiz’s contributions to the sport are extremely far-reaching,” said Chael Sonnen, who fights in the main event of UFC 148. “He was the champion for a number of years. Not only did he defend that belt a number of times, but he inspired the next generation of athletes, and I’m one of them.”

When Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta purchased the UFC in 2001, they inherited a roster full of fighters with question marks. Ortiz wasn’t one of them.

The brash “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was a shameless self-promoter and perhaps the company’s only established draw. UFC President Dana White, who worked as Ortiz’s manager before taking over the promotion, referred to Ortiz as “a huge star” back then.

“I don’t mean to make his Hall of Fame induction negative, but Tito was my first big mistake,” White said. “Putting everything behind one guy is exactly what we did, and it bit us in the (butt) because of the way it turned out.”

White and Ortiz have squabbled notoriously for a decade on everything from contract disputes to nickname changes. Most notably, Ortiz refused to fight ex-training partner Chuck Liddell for a couple years when the two were the two biggest names in the UFC. Liddell eventually went on to defeat Ortiz by knockout twice, but tension for the initial delay took years to subside.

Everything appears calm, however, with Ortiz primed to settle another rivalry this week. White will speak about Ortiz at the Fan Expo before his Hall of Fame induction, an honor he’s long desired.

“I wasn’t supposed to be where I am today,” Ortiz said. “I had three choices — dead, in prison or where I am right now. And I think I made some great decisions. Some great things have been given to me.”

Ortiz often discusses his rough upbringing, saying he grew up poor with parents who were addicted to drugs. He’ll also never pass on a chance to list his numerous surgeries — back, neck and multiple knee operations.

Predictably, those topics were a part of the final pre-fight press conference of Ortiz’s career Thursday. But he spent more time talking about his family.

Don’t worry: Although Jacob was hospitalized, he made a speedy recovery with his dad by his side.

“It was viral, but he got rid of it in three days,” Ortiz said. “Thank God he’s got Ortiz blood running through him.”

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

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