Tito Ortiz changed his moniker from "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" to "The People's Champ" to wipe away the memories of his negative image, but he's still quite mean to MMA Fighting reporter Ariel Helwani even as he tries to rid himself of the role of the "heel."
Ortiz Won't Talk To Helwani
At the UFC 148 pre-fight presser on July 5, Ortiz refused to answer a question by Helwani and declined again when the young reporter offered to change his inquiry to a better one.
Helwani asked a very reasonable question, prodding Ortiz on whether he thought he was fighting a better or worse version of Forrest Griffin than the one he fought in 2009.
"How 'bout you, Tito? What do you think about Forrest? Better, worse or the same?" Helwani asked Ortiz at the UFC 148 pre-fight presser.
Ortiz responded "I don't like you. I ain't answering your question and Dana [White] isn't here to save you, so next question."
"Can I ask you a follow-up?" Helwani fired back. "Maybe a better question?"
Ortiz wouldn't answer, and UFC broadcaster Jon Anik added "I guess if he's not going to answer, we gotta move on, my man."
Helwani finally wrapped up the exchange with "That is unfortunate. Good luck, Tito."
Ortiz didn't crack a smile during the awkward exchange, and he just came across looking like a bully.
Fighters like Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Nick Diaz and even UFC President Dana White playfully taunt Helwani in a very joking manner, and it comes across as quite comical. Helwani is like that little brother that you love with all your heart, yet you can't help but playfully rag on him. Essentially, that is part of his gimmick and his appeal.
But in this case, Ortiz's beef with Helwani seems genuine.
The bad feelings apparently stems from 2011, when Ortiz accused the reporter of "putting words in his mouth" prior to his fight with Ryan Bader.
"I never said [Bader] had weak wrestling," Ortiz said to Helwani at the UFC 132 presser. "What are you trying to start s*** for, dude? I never said that. I never said he had weak wrestling."
He added "Don't be putting words in my mouth, dawg."
Taking A Cue From The WWE?
In my view, I suppose it's possible that Ortiz's beef with Helwani may be entirely scripted to add a little fun drama to the UFC, as fighting leagues like the WWF have in the past stirred up some great storylines by having fighters go at it with reporters and analysts.
I don't believe that to be the case though, as Ortiz seemed to be pretty serious about not liking Helwani though when he mentioned it at the UFC 148 presser.
It's unfortunate because many UFC and MMA fans turn to Helwani's main site, MMAFighting.com, for pre and post-fight interviews, and not having Ortiz featured there is a serious blow to those who rely on such content.
Unfortunately, quotes being taken out of context are regular occurrences in all fields of reporting and athletics.
I don't feel that Helwani was trying to stir up controversy with his original comments between Bader and Ortiz, so "The People's Champ" should just chock it up to a minor misunderstanding.
Should Tito Ortiz settle his beef with Ariel Helwani? Let me know in the comments.
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.