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Portuguese hip hop throbs from the house speakers in the Punishment Training Center, an athletic facility devoted to mixed martial arts training and owned by UFC legend and marketing maestro, Tito Ortiz. The gym is empty save for a camera crew and a Brazilian jiu jitsu instructor, who looks more like a scrappy body builder, bench pressing six plates of free weights with focused ease. In the busy front offices, telephones ring continuously while frequent foot traffic flows in and out of the main entrance. But Ortiz has yet to make his entrance—into his gym and into his next big business endeavor.
Ortiz returned late the previous night from a week-long camp at the UFC summit in Las Vegas, where the company had been cross-training their athletes in business and marketing tactics. After a while, Ortiz cruises into the parking lot, his bleached-blond head barely visible inside his Maserati sedan. Standing six feet, two inches tall, Ortiz resembles a Roman gladiator as he enters the gym, smiling and exuding an air of courteous professionalism.
“Sorry, guys,” he says, referring to the fact that he’s late. But beyond this sincere apology, he wastes little time with chit chat and goes immediately into business mode. Less than five minutes after his arrival, the self-proclaimed Muhammad Ali of mixed martial arts is donning a suit and posing in front of the camera. He’s doing what he does best: putting on a show.
His twenty-four appearances in the octagon are far more than any other athlete. His fights have been among the highest watched on paid cable television. Among UFC’s top ten most successful pay-per-view events, are Tito Ortiz headliners (according to popular web forum zetaboards.com): 775,000 buys at UFC 61, in his match against Ken Shamrock, and 1,050,000 against Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell at UFC 66. And, according to MMA Weekly’s Ivan Trembow, 5.7 million viewers tuned in for the October 10, 2006, Ortiz vs. Shamrock 3: The Final Chapter. Tito sells out venues wherever he goes, and he’s going to just keep on selling his brand, even outside of fighting.
Ortiz is known for having a bad boy image. He’s married to former adult film star Jenna Jameson and he has long been one of the toughest contenders in the bloodiest sport to ever hit American television. After his time in front of the lens and a quick lunch, Ortiz sits on the bleachers next to a “Punishment”-emblazoned octagon and talks with Defy about life in and out of the UFC, fatherhood, the never-ending drama on Twitter and his future career plans, including his Punishment brand and nutrition company.
It’s nearly impossible not to be won over by the authenticity and humility of the articulate Ortiz, whose surprising modesty naturally surfaced from under a tough, bulletproof-looking physique.
“You’ve got to understand the bad boy image is the guy who sells the fights, no more than that,” he says, explaining his intentionally ostentatious persona. “I’m a cool cat – very respectful toward the people who are around me. Just the people who are in my weight class – I’m disrespectful toward them because I’m trying to get in their mind. It’s psychological. I understand it.”
Not only does Ortiz understand it, he has invested countless hours mentoring up-and-coming fighters, trying to help them learn what it takes to achieve greatness in the predictably short-lived professional fighting career of mixed martial arts.
One of the key lessons he tries to impart to other athletes is the importance of building their own brand, just as he has.To read more become a subscriber or purchase the digital edition here.