Tito Ortiz made himself a vocal and obvious presence cageside on Saturday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The UFC Hall of Famer retired in January after finishing Sonnen in the opening round of their Bellator 170 fight. But he clearly hasn’t dropped the grudge, as he flipped Sonnen off before his Bellator NYC main event over Wanderlei Silva and continued to taunt him throughout the fight.
It got so bad that the MSG crowd aimed a vulgar chant at Ortiz late in the bout.
Sonnen, for his part, noticed Ortiz’s antics. And at the evening’s post-fight press conference, he tried to figure out what exactly was his former opponent’s deal.
“Tito is a really bizarre guy, you know?” Sonnen said. “I just lost to him. You never rub a guy’s face in it. You just don’t do that. I’m getting ready to fight and Tito is flipping me off and yelling terrible things at me, I just thought it was really bizarre.”
By contrast, Sonnen was in a gregarious mood after earning his first victory since his 2013 submission win over Mauricio Rua in Boston. He pivoted from his comments on Ortiz to praise welterweight champ Douglas Lima after his impressive title defense against Lorenz Larkin.
“Tonight belongs to one guy, and that is Douglas Lima,” Sonnen said. “He’s been a Bellator highlight reel for years. He has been disrespected, if you understand how good Lorenz Larkin is and I do, the message of tonight for me as a fan, is Lima vs. [Rory] MacDonald, that is the one thing that came out of tonight.”
Likewise, Sonnen also had respectful words for the legendary Fedor Emelianenko following the former PRIDE champion’s first round knockout loss to Matt Mitrione, even though he still hopes to get a fight with the Russian pioneer. Sonnen called out Emelianenko in the cage immediately after beating Silva.
“I would never kick a guy when he’s down,” Sonnen said of Emelianenko. “I respect Fedor, that was my way of pulling him back up. That match that he had could have gone either way. Mitrione is a rough son of a bitch and people don’t understand that. We had a double knockdown and Fedor had recovered and Mitrione was recovered and all sorts of a mess was out there. I want to make it clear I respect Fedor but I think that he and I are going to cross sooner or later.”