Behind the Bad Boy
Ultimate fighter Tito Ortiz had a tough road to success
Posted: Friday July 6, 2007 4:43PM; Updated: Saturday July 7, 2007 3:56PM
There is a unique nervousness that comes with hopping over the black gate surrounding the massive Big Bear estate of Tito Ortiz. The feelings come at you in waves, pounding against your chest almost as quickly as your heart. It's no doubt the same range of emotions his opponents must feel when they step into the Octagon with "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy."
I'm not here to fight Ortiz, but he still finds a way to make me lose as he catches a mid-afternoon nap. We are supposed to spend the day together but so far I've spent the past hour circling around the one-acre estate he bought from Oscar De La Hoya last year, buzzing the gate occasionally to no avail. Throwing caution and all semblance of intelligence to the wind, I decide to find my own way onto the driveway, which still lets visitors know they are standing on the corner of De La Hoya Drive and Golden Boy Avenue.
The only street sign racing through my mind though as I walk up to the log-cabin style home is the aptly named Paine Street I turned on moments earlier to get to my current predicament. If I can just blurt out that I'm here to do a story on Ortiz, maybe the handful of fighters calling "the compound" home for the past two months will forgive me for ignoring the "No Trespassing -- Training in Session" sign outside.
"You're looking for Tito right?" asks Ortiz's trainer, Saul Soliz, opening the door to the house. "He's sleeping upstairs but you can come in and make yourself at home. Did you use the remote for the gate we left outside?"
"Um, yeah," I say, slumping onto the couch. "Thanks."
The Birth of a Bad Boy
If Ortiz closes his eyes just long enough he can still picture himself as an 8-year-old boy walking around an aging mobile home in Santa Ana and losing any semblance of innocence he had one night after being torn away from his older brothers and their picturesque home in Huntington Beach
"I could see them using heroine," says Ortiz. "We were in a little mobile home, and the only thing separating me from them was a little curtain, and I could see them through the curtain using needles."
Ortiz recalls having a somewhat charmed childhood until he was about 7. He and his four brothers would go on camping trips and family vacations with his father, Sam, who owned his own carpentry company, and mother, Joyce, a stay-at-home mom who took care of the five boys. That was until his uncle introduced his father to heroine to ease his hernia pain. He soon became addicted and passed the addiction onto his wife and they decided to flee their home, leaving their boys behind with a guardian, except for their youngest, Jacob "Tito" Ortiz.
"My dad had to sell his business and it pretty much came down to finding a way to make enough money to support his and my mother's habit and for taking care of me," says Ortiz. "We moved to Santa Ana where life was a little cheaper. We were living with my grandmother for a while. We lived with some of his friends sometimes. We'd live in their living rooms, their garages. We'd live in our cars sometimes. We lived in mobile homes. Life was really tough. I was in survival mode at such a young age."