BRISTOL, Conn.—At the very Boys and Girls Club where accused murderer Aaron Hernandez spent many afternoons during his formative years, Bellator MMA light heavyweight Tito Ortiz told Breitbart Sports that wrestling rescued him from gang life and aimlessness as a teenager.
“It saved me,” the Huntington Beach Bad Boy divulged of the sport. “It kept me off the streets. Prior to that, I hung out with the wrong people in gangs and stuff.”
Ortiz traveled to Connecticut to speak to high school wrestlers and young admirers at Bristol’s Boys and Girls Club on Wednesday. He confessed to the wrestlers that when he first tried out for his high school’s team he wondered where the ring was. He quickly realized that his sport and Hulk Hogan’s differed.
“Visualize everything you want to achieve,” Ortiz told his teen and pre-teen fans. “Don’t ever think in a negative way.”
Ortiz, the former UFC light heavyweight champion whose scraps with Chuck Liddell and Ken Shamrock elevated the promotion’s profile on pay-per view, owns notable victories over Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Forrest Griffin, and Guy Mezger. After injuries and close decisions resulted in just one win during a seven-plus-year slump, a rejuvenated and relatively healthy Ortiz reestablished himself in 2014 with a submission victory over Alexander Shlemenko and a decision over Stephan Bonnar that spotlighted his standup.
Ortiz looks to challenge for Bellator MMA’s light heavyweight title in his next fight. He will watch cageside at Mohegan Sun as Brit Liam McGeary challenges fellow Southern Californian Emanuel Newton for the championship on Friday night. Spike TV airs the card, which also includes Cheick Kongo versus Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and a fight featuring knockout artist Paul Daley, at 9 p.m. Eastern.
Ortiz appeared very much in his element trading wrestling stories with the high school athletes. “I was just kind of following,” Ortiz reflected on his teenage years. “When I got into wrestling, I became a leader.”