“Guess who’s back,” shouted Tito Ortiz, after securing a submission victory over Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 120 Saturday night.
With a decisive weight advantage, Ortiz scored a quick takedown, moved to a strong position and choked out Shlemenko, the reigning middleweight champion in the first round.
“I worked hard as hell for this,” Ortiz said. “I want to show all of you and my boys what hard work and dedication can do.”
Ortiz (17-11-1), who turned 39 years old this year, earned his first victory since a 2011 submission over Ryan Bader in the UFC. He was just 1-7-1 in his last nine fights overall, dating back to a 2006 loss to Chuck Liddell for the light heavyweight title.
After retiring from MMA following a loss to Forrest Griffin in 2012, Ortiz decided to return for Bellator. However, a neck injury last year cast a shadow over any chance of him competing again. Ortiz admitted he knew it might be over until a doctor found a new procedure to help speed up his recovery.
Shlemenko issued a challenge to Ortiz and “The People’s Champion” gladly accepted. He once sponsored Shlemenko, but this was all business for him on Saturday.
“He is a great champion at 185 pounds, but calling me out, I had to do what I do best, which is punish people,” Ortiz said. “I’m here for a long time.”
Ortiz also called out his former employers, who he believes are trying to blacklist him from their history books.
“The UFC tried to take me off their lists, their Hall of Fame,” Ortiz said. “Each one of these fans will remember me for the rest of MMA’s lifetime.”