PHILADELPHIA — Tito Ortiz hadn’t even walked out of the cage following his loss to Matt Hamill last October when his phone lit up with a text. On the other end of it was Ortiz’s longtime friend and sometime boxing coach Jason Parillo, who had watched the fight from inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, not understanding what his eyes were seeing.
Parillo had worked with Ortiz long enough to know something wasn’t quite right, and he wanted the chance to help correct it. So he shot off a text, and then he waited.
A return call would come in time, but the impetus for Ortiz to change his camp came not from the winless streak that stretched over years or from a text from a concerned friend. It came because of family. Not long earlier, Ortiz’s girlfriend Jenna Jameson gave birth to twin boys. He also has another son from a previous relationship. Ortiz, who detailed a rough upbringing in his 2008 autobiography This Is Gonna Hurt, thought about how quickly his kids were growing and felt a desire to spend more time with them.
Over the previous years, Ortiz had taken his fight camps to Big Bear, California, where he imported coaches and training partners. Parillo was never a part of that. The two would work together when Ortiz was at home, then part ways when he departed for camp. The situation suited both men, but it also turned into a source of frustration for Parillo, who says he often saw his work undone by the time Ortiz got back into the cage.
That was what he felt watching UFC 121 in Anaheim.
“I was like, f—, what are you doing Tito?” Parillo told MMA Fighting. “He was just not fighting like the guy I’ve watched for so long. I’ve watched him fight from the beginning of his career, the way he was grinding guys. But that Hamill fight, what I saw was he was not a guy in there to win, he was just a guy in there to survive. I don’t know if it was personal problems or injury issues, but he definitely wasn’t there to win a fight.”
Parillo’s message was out of genuine concern. The two grew up nearby and have known each other for around 15 years.
As a longtime boxing coach — he fought as a pro from 1998-2003, going 8-0 — Parillo reasons that fighters need to trust the men tasked with guiding them. He knew that given their past, the partnership could work.
“When I hit him up that night after the Hamill fight, I was showing him love,” Parillo said. “I was telling him, ‘You can still fight. I believe it. You may believe in something but you’re not believing in yourself.’ We had to get him back to that.”
Parillo said he didn’t see any of the telltale signs of a washed-up fighter. Ortiz still had good reaction-time, his reflexes were