New York fight fans got a bit restless during the "Bellator NYC" main event between Chael "The American Gangster" Sonnen and Wanderlei "The Axe-Murderer" Silva. The crowd opened an expletive-filled chant aimed at recently retired MMA legend Tito "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz — who was sitting cageside.
Ortiz, 42, was serenaded with a chorus of F-bombs after the crowd spotted him flipping off Sonnen and openly cheering for Silva. An AXS contributor caught the New York crowd breaking into a "f— you, Tito" chant during the second round of the Bellator NYC main event.
"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" took the situation in stride, playing up to the crowd by urging them to get louder. He turned toward the fans and motioned his hands for them to continue to chant. What should fight fans take away from all this? First of all, in a tough town like New York City, a chant like that could be seen as a warm welcome.
The New York fans likely weren’t trying to disrespect Ortiz. It was their own special way of telling him thank you for his years of service inside the cage. Hopefully Bellator took note of the situation because it’s interesting that the former UFC star generated more of a crowd response than almost anyone on the card. He wasn’t even fighting but the crowd was pumped for him.
That kind of heel heat is quite valuable. It doesn’t matter that the crowd boos, only that they care enough to give a response. Generating emotion is the name of the game, as Bellator wants to run fights that people can get emotionally invested in. Fight fans still clearly have strong feelings about Ortiz. It’s unclear at this point if he’ll consider a return to fighting. The rumor is that Bellator is trying to put together a trilogy fight pitting Ortiz against longtime rival Chuck Liddell, but time will tell how that situation plays out.