While it would be impossible to trace the origins of sportsmanship back to one particular event, one can argue that thousands of years ago there was a tipping point where mutual respect became an integral part of competition.
A battle would ensue, punches would be exchanged, and one would be deemed the victor. But at some point, it became normal for the victor to offer a hand to his opponent, help him off the ground in a display of honor towards the battle that just occurred. It would become normal, acceptable and preferred if both combatants, show each other a sign of mutual respect despite the hatred that may have fueled the battle in the first place.
This is most evident in the fight game, as the outcome almost always ends with both fearless warriors shaking hands, hugging and showing respect towards each other. The pre-fight hype, social media posturing and media day theatrics become a thing of the past, allowing the fans and fighters to move on to the next big thing in their respective quests.
Sportsmanship is apparent across all sports, in entertainment, business and several other areas of our everyday lives. But what happens when sportsmanship just simply is not an option? When the deep-seeded hatred of two individuals reaches critical mass and boils over to a point of no return.
On September 5, at Bellator 123, the line was crossed. Hell, it was crossed, then doused in gasoline and set ablaze. Two men, MMA legends in the own right, reignited a feud that has snowballed into an unstoppable force and will culminate in a final showdown in San Diego at The Valley View Casino Center on November 15, 2014 at Bellator 131.
THEFIGHTVOICE sat down with Tito Ortiz as he prepares for his bout against Stephan Bonnar at Bellator 131 in San Diego on November 15, 2014.
Tito Ortiz has been through it all. From the bottom of the MMA landscape to the mountain top where he reigned as the champion, an international icon and perennial superstar. His nemesis, Stephan Bonnar, a journeyman fighter with the heart of a lion and chin of a rhino, who always gave the fans his last breath inside the cage will forever be known for his war against Forrest Griffin in The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale.
The feud between these two warriors is long and storied. It wasn’t until September 5, at Bellator 123, during an intermission that the pot boiled over and both men became part of a one-act play taken from the professional wrestling playbook we all loved as young kids.
It was on that memorable night, while Bellator fans were filling up their drinks and checking Twitter in the halls of the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut that a routine fight announcement was taking place inside the cage. Only moments later, those fans who were loitering the hallways waiting for the next fight would see a live tweet from someone saying a scrum between Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar was going down inside the cage. Oh, and that a masked man was involved?
The spectacle started with both men grabbing the mic while Scott Coker was standing in the middle, proud to be bringing this fight to the fans. Stephan Bonnar proceeded to launch a heated verbal attack on Tito Ortiz, and the “masked man” who was present turned out to be none other than Justin McCulley, a former sparring partner of Tito Ortiz. The dialogue quickly turned personal as Bonnar threw verbal haymakers at Ortiz, ranging from his alleged poor treatment of his fans, to the controversy involving his ex-wife and even crossing over into allegations of Ortiz’s lack of appreciation for the troops who serve our country. It didn’t take long for Ortiz to fire back. And fire back with force he did. A physical altercation followed and both parties needed to be separated. The fire was reignited.
The altercation and spectacle as a whole was criticized by a large contingent of the MMA community for being manufactured, however, from the viewpoint of some, the personal attacks from Bonnar about Ortiz’s family were completely authentic and have fueled the MMA legend to make this a fight to remember. A fight that will surpass expectations, go down in history and if Tito Ortiz had his way, it would most certainly be Bonnar’s last dance.