UFC Hall of Famer and independent wrestler Stephan Bonnar recently spoke with Wrestling Inc. president Raj Giri. With Bonnar making the transition from MMA to professional wrestling, Giri asked him if his time training with Dave Batista fueled his interest in stepping into the squared circle.
While Bonnar did get some advice from Batista here and there, he said it was actually his fight with Tito Ortiz in Bellator MMA that made him want to try his hand at pro wrestling. The build to that fight was unlike anything ever seen in MMA, as Bonnar truly embraced wrestling tactics while promoting the fight. After seeing how fans reacted to it, Bonnar decided he would pursue a career in pro wrestling.
"I picked his brain a lot, and when he went back on his WWE tours, I went to a lot of the shows that he was on, and got to talk with a lot of the guys. It was more about the research and picking the brains. Sure, it did help too," Bonnar said. "Even when I turned heel on Tito [Ortiz] and he was calling himself The People's Champ, really what he did was turn babyface; from The Huntington Beach Bad Boy to People's Champ, and now he is trying to be a babyface, so how about I turn heel during the fight announcement, and he said that that would be a hell of an idea. I asked if he thought it would spark interest in the fight and he was like, for sure. I gave it a shot, and it did. It was the most watched fight of 2014 and it was a big hit. I had a lot of fun doing that. I had so much fun doing that and I thought, 'Wow, why don't I just pro wrestle?'"
That was the last fight of Bonnar's career despite signing a three-fight deal with Bellator. Bonnar explained that he wanted to go out on his own terms because his last fight in the UFC was a one-sided loss to Anderson Silva. He said he doesn't plan on making a return to MMA anytime soon.
"No, even though it is a three fight deal, I just had one fight left. That was it. I didn't want it to end on the Anderson Silva note, it was kind of a sour note and took that fight on short notice. Before that I was campaigning for a big fight. I wanted them to let me become a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. It would have made for great TV and I had a lot of great ideas for that, but it just wasn't happening. In the UFC I wasn't going to get that marquee fight and have fun, campaign and promote the fight, but it just wasn't going to happen," he said. "Then, once Bellator came along I was given my chance to do it. To go out the way that I wanted to, go out and have fun and have people tune in, and promote the fight and to create a way to become a heel. Legitimately, if there is one guy in the sport I really didn't care for it was really him [Tito Ortiz].
"If there was one fight that you could have had---it was him, so it was all those things, and most of the guys that I fight I like. We have a lot in common and I don't have anything against them, but him, I just heard from so many people how he screwed so many people over and how he owes people money and never paid them, just terrible things. It's like, this guy is a jerk and I am going to pretend to turn heel, and my opinion was, hey, if you still like Tito Ortiz and Bonnar is a jerk, then he can have you if you are that stupid. That was my attitude. I wanted to go out having fun and I had lost a close one with a split decision, which is a cliche of my career where I had close fights not going my way, so I think it was a good way to go out."
As for his old rival Ortiz, Bonnar still managed to throw a jab at him regarding his stint in TNA. Bonnar said he was not impressed with Ortiz's mic skills at all.
"I did. Whenever the put a mic on him it was terrible. It was God-awful," he said. "He couldn't say a promo to save his life. It was really bad."
Bonnar also revealed he almost came to blows with Ortiz at a public event. He made it clear that he will never be fond of Ortiz and this rivalry will last a long time, but he said he respects Ortiz for winning their fight.
"I saw him at the MMA Awards last year and he was in that show, WAGS [Wives and Girlfriends] with Amber. They had a bunch of stars on that. I was coming down the stairs and we locked eyes, and he wouldn't take his eyes off of me so I got into his face, and I was like, 'Let's do it, Tito.' There was bad blood," Bonnar said. "I was ready to fight him, but my coach came and got in between us and broke it up, so that was it. I mean, I am never going to like the guy, but he gave me a good fight so I am going to respect that."
PCW Ultra: Opposites Attack takes place this Friday at the ILWU Memorial Hall in Wilmington, CA. In addition to Bonnar vs. Madison, Penta El Zero will defend the PCW Ultra World Heavyweight Championship in a steel cage, while PCW Ultra World Light Heavyweight Champion Shane Strickland will put his title on the line against Dragon Lee. Tessa Blanchard will defend the PCW Ultra World Women's Championship against Rachael Ellering and Warbeast will defend the PCW Tag Titles against OVE. ACH, Hammerstone, Jeff Cobb, Brody King and Darby Allin will also be in action. You can purchase tickets for the show at PCWUltra.com.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.