LONG BEACH, Calif. — Whether you love Donald J. Trump or hate him, the presence of the President of the United States at UFC 244 on Saturday night marked a milestone moment in mixed martial arts history.
And few people involved with the sport are more invested in Trump’s involvement than former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz.
It was Ortiz who headlined the pivotal UFC 30 in 2001 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., the first show after the Fertitta brothers bought the UFC at its low point and put Dana White in charge of the promotion. Trump, for his part, was the entrepreneur willing to open his doors to the UFC when few respectable operators would host them.
And while his issues with the UFC are well-documented, Ortiz, who will meet Alberto El Patron in Combate Americas on Dec. 7, has to admit he feels pride in helping build the sport from where it was to where it is, a fact the President’s presence underscores.
“It was nice to see the President continue to support our sport not just as the President, but as a businessman before becoming the President,” Ortiz told MMA Junkie. “He’s been a good, close friend of Dana, and I saw an interview of Dana with the President, and me and Dana don’t see eye-to-eye sometimes, but what (White) said (about Trump’s UFC role) was the truth.”
At UFC 30, Ortiz knocked out the late Evan Tanner in 30 seconds, beginning his relationship with Trump, which included a successful stint on Trump’s reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” and involvement by both in Affliction MMA.
Ortiz also vocally supported Trump’s bid for the Presidency at a time when few gave him a chance of capturing the White House.
“I think being the headliner at Trump Taj Mahal gave him the idea of mixed martial arts and of Tito Ortiz, because in 2005 I did the ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’” Ortiz said. “He gave me the opportunity to show what the hard work of being an apprentice is. He gave me the opportunity to be on his show asking questions of business, and I did that. I’m thankful for that. I was able to raise over $100,000 for my charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
And while Ortiz wasn’t part of the UFC 244 festivities at New York’s Madison Square Garden, he’s appreciative of the fact he’s been able to stick around the game long enough to note how it has grown.
“Life comes full circle; it’s weird how it comes and everything is meant to be, I think,” Ortiz said. “I’m meant to be here for a long time.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Tito Ortiz on Donald Trump's UFC 244 presence and MMA's growth