We’ve got quite the barnburner on our hands this Saturday night, as Tito Ortiz will face Stephan Bonnar in a main-event bout at Bellator 131 in San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center.
This fight has been bubbling since September, when Bonnar – along with a masked man who turned out to be Ortiz’s former training partner, Justin McCully – ripped Ortiz’s personal life live on Spike TV.
Let’s just say that punches were thrown.
“This fight’s been getting a lot of press,” Bellator MMA president Scott Coker said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Tito just snapped and went after him. And people said, ‘Oh, it was a pro wrestling gig.’ Honestly, it wasn’t. At the end of the day, all I saw were a bunch of fists flying past my ear. (I said), ‘I got to get out of here.’ That was the beginning of the genesis of this big fight we’re having here Saturday night.”
Neither Ortiz nor Bonnar – both UFC Hall of Famers – were fined, but Bellator did issue an apology for the melee. Coker said Ortiz was visibly shaken after the incident and was trembling as he was trying to send a text message. Ortiz told Coker that McCully got way too personal in his attack and made inappropriate comments about Ortiz’s children and ex.
“It was a crazy night,” Coker said. “The fights continued on Spike, but I knew at that point these guys really do not like each other. I didn’t understand the hatred and the emotion that they have built up inside of them.”
Yes, there’s quite a lot of venom between the two, which typically leads to better fights. Ortiz, who turns 40 in January, certainly looked good in his last fight, beating Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 120 in May. Ortiz won with an arm-triangle choke submission in the first round.
Ortiz, who is 6-2 and 205 pounds, is giving up two inches to the 37-year-old Bonnar, but that shouldn’t factor too heavily in this one.
“Well, I can tell you that (Ortiz) was clearly the underdog in that Shlemenko fight in May,” Coker said. “I can just tell he looks in shape. You can just tell he’s living a clean lifestyle. He told me he’s got his act together. He’s got his life back together, has a new girlfriend, everything’s gelling perfectly. He got his house in order, which is going to lead to great performances. I think that we’re going to have a great Tito Ortiz, and I think we’re going to have a great Stephan Bonnar.”
Bonnar is coming out of retirement for this fight. His last appearance came in October 2012 against then-UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Coker held a press conference with Ortiz and Bonnar on Thursday. Coker said he could feel the tension between the two, but luckily no punches were thrown.
“If I wasn’t between those two guys, there would have been another fight,” Coker said. “These guys are ready to fight.”