Stots and Sabatello, who headline Bellator 289 in the finals of the promotion’s bantamweight grand prix, had to be separated by host Ariel Helwani as tempers flared over their respective careers on the mat.
“I’m a better wrestler,” said Stots. “We can wrestle right now, I’ll beat the s*** out of him.”
“Let’s go,” Sabatello replied, rising out of his chair.
After Helwani intervened, Sabatello snatched Stots’ belt, making good on an earlier attempt picked off by the interim champ.
On one side of the desk was Sabatello, a three-time NCAA qualifier at Division I Purdue University. On the other was Stots, a two-time national champion at University of Nebraska-Kearney.
Sabatello was impressed Stots knew he’d been wrestling since 4, but that was where the respect ended. By the time they stood up for an extracurricular tussle, the sit-down interview was an endless stream of interruptions and insults, with Stots repeatedly calling Sabatello a “car salesman” and Sabatello calling Stots a “little b****.”
After another interruption, Sabatello lost his patience.
“Shut the f*** up, I’m about to go over there and slap the s*** out of you,” he said.
“Slap me, bro,” Stots replied. “I wish you would slap the s*** out of me.”
And again, Helwani played referee.
“You know you’re not really going to do something, because you’re not about it,” Stots declared. “Car salesman.”
The in-person interview turned up the heat on a rivalry that’s simmered since Sabatello’s entry into the Bellator grand prix. “The Italian Gangster” made a splash in the field as much for his mouth as his talent, taking out Leandro Higo after a heap of trash talk. In the opposite bracket, Stots captured the interim belt in a bout with Juan Archuleta after champ Sergio Pettis was bumped from the tournament due to injury.
Sabatello greeted Stots with a middle finger after his win, setting in motion a semifinal fight to earn the right to face Pettis. On the other side of the bracket is a fight between Patchy Mix and Magomed Magomedov.
As Monday’s skirmish showed, bragging rights are also on the line when the two clash on Dec. 9 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.