August 06, 2009

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz is in his second week of hard training following a back surgery that required nearly nine months of rehab. caught up with "The Hungtington Beach Bad Boy" at Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles, where he's working with Freddie Roach for the next nine weeks before moving to his facility in Big Bear, Calif.

Afterwards, he wants to make a stop in Montreal to train with welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre.

Not completely out of shape, but not in fight shape, the 34-year-old Ortiz faces the hardest phase of rebuilding. But for once, he says, his back isn't killing him.

"It feels nice to train with no soreness," Ortiz said outside the gym. "For the first month now I'll be doing two-a-days."

Roach is encouraged by what he saw Wednesday after nine rounds with the mitts.

"He's a hard worker," said the famed trainer of boxer Manny Pacquiao. "The first time I did that 30-minute drill with Oscar De La Hoya, he only made it two. Tito finished, so I was happy about that."

At the bell, Ortiz leaned over the ropes and heaved. Baby steps.

Last week, he re-signed with the UFC, ending a seemingly endless feud with president Dana White. In an on-again, off-again saga of epic proportions, Ortiz first tried to work out a deal with the promotion (particularly co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta), then swore them off completely.

After appearing within arm's length of a deal with Strikeforce, he did another about face, making nice with White during a conference call announcing his return last Friday. There, he told reporters he would end his career in the Octagon.

Ortiz says he should be ready to fight in November, and expects to face former heavyweight champion Mark Coleman next.

White said the fight was under consideration, making UFC 106 a likely choice given Ortiz's cut of pay-per-view profits. UFC 106 is scheduled for Nov. 21 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, one week after UFC 105 touches down in Manchester, England.

Despite the glaring age gap between the two, Ortiz does not anticipate an easy fight.

"I respect him a lot," Ortiz said with a knowing grin. "I think this fight will have a lot more personal vendetta behind it the closer the fight comes, I think."

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