After King Mo‘s KO victory over Dustin Jacoby at Bellator 123 on Friday night, Bellator MMA CEO Scott Coker called up Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar, who are slated to fight in Bellator 131. Coker promoted Ortiz’s and Bonnar’s matchup and let the two have an exchange of words that quickly took a turn for the personal and the bizzare.
Ringside commentator Jimmy Smith clung to the microphone while Stephan Bonnar claimed that Tito Ortiz fans are only fans of “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” because they really don’t know him. Bonnar went on to say that former coaches, training partners and managers have “come out of the woodwork” to support him in his quest for vengeance against Ortiz. One of those supporters was masked right next to Bonnar and unmasked without much introduction beyond being “in his corner” for many fights throughout Tito’s career only to be “flushed down the toilet.”
The masked man was Justin McCully (11-5-1), a professional mixed martial artist and former training partner of Tito Ortiz. As his last pro fight was in 2011 he might not be a name or a face that most people would recognize, unless they remembered his brief stint as a heavyweight in the UFC. McCully fought a total of five bouts with the promotion, with his last fight being lost by unanimous decision to Mike Russow at UFC 102 in 2009. While some may have been aware of McCully’s association with Ortiz as a training partner out of Team Punishment, they might not have suspected any long time grudge between the two.
But, in a recent interview with mmacrypt.com, McCully accused Ortiz of being greedy with his earnings, obsessed with his success, and letting his fame go to his head. “The story is the same with everyone you talk to,” he stated, and most people don’t know who he is behind the scenes. McCully was in Tito’s corner up to his fight with Lyoto Machida in UFC 84, but left “the Tito Show” before the fight even happened.
Speaking with the media after the event, Coker stated:
“What you saw out there, I think, was serious heated emotion,” Coker said after the event. “I know Justin McCully. I don’t know what he means to Tito Ortiz. I don’t know what happened, but obviously there’s some bad blood there between those two. And hence the mask. At first, I thought I was at a Japanese pro-wrestling event or something.”
“I told Tito and Justin, ‘Calm down,’” he said. “I don’t know what the beef is, but they definitely have some beef. Tito was steaming. Even when he left, he was still pretty riled up. So it’s going to be interesting that Saturday night (at Bellator 131).”
Many people fans and spectators have been asking whether the whole ordeal was staged or not, but the Bellator MMA President, Scott Coker, insisted that neither Bellator or Spike were informed of any such planned display. According to Mr. Coker, the events were a result of ‘creative liberties’ taken on the part of Stephen Bonnar and Justin McCully, to which neither he nor anyone else in Bellator or Spike were informed of. Although he did confirm that the dissent between the two competitors is very real.
Regardless of Bonnar’s attempt to get under Tito’s skin with poorly scripted insults, Ortiz was reported to be genuinely insulted and enraged by the performance. Leading to the physical altercation on stage and a nearly hour long cool down period after the incident, Coker explained.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Bonnar will be allowed to pull any stunts like that in the future, but according to the current climate at Bellator, there’s absolutely no desire to be perceived as a pro wrestling inspired promotion.