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Things escalated rather quietly between UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold (15-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and challenger Michael Bisping (28-7 MMA, 18-7 UFC) on a media call this week to promote UFC 199, which takes place on June 4 at The Forum in Inglewood, CA. As soon as the first question was fielded by the fighters, the vocal barbs started flying immediately.
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Bisping, who is taking the fight on two weeks notice after original opponent Chris Weidman pulled out through injury, fired off by claiming that he freaked out Rockhold in the first round of their first fight in November 2014 (Bisping lost that fight via guillotine choke in the second round). The Englishman argued that he had Rockhold rattled in the first stanza with his striking game and that a cut he sustained due to, in his opinion, a head butt, changed the course of the fight. Rockhold was having none of that and countered that Bisping allegedly refused a bet of a purse swap for the winner if he secured a first round KO (Bisping claims to have never heard of any such bet). It became apparent rather quickly that neither guy is on the other’s Christmas card list.
Bisping went on to say that he is reveling in his underdog status. “I’m going to go out there and shock the world, I’m going to swing for the fences,” said the 37-year-old. “I’m going to push that guy against the fence and unload with everything I got. Right in his face.”
When asked if the late replacement in opponent was off-putting, Rockhold reiterated his desire to get the job done no matter who was on the other side of the octagon. “Any time you put in a full training camp like this, I want to have an end result. I want to keep myself competing and making money. Going out there to shut Mike’s mouth – to shut all these guys mouths. All these guys have made excuses – Mike, Chris Weidman, Jacare (Ronaldo Souza dos Santos) and guess what, I’ve beat them all, and I am going to beat them all again, one at a time. They are all going to get theirs.”
Bisping had previously talked on social media about how the nature of the way he got this title fight convinced him that it is his destiny to win the belt. Rockhold, who gave his opponent props for beating a true champion in Anderson Silva and said Bisping had earned the title shot, then proceeded to quash that romantic narrative.
“This will not be his fairy tale. This will not be his swan song,” said the champ. “You will not be a champion. I will humiliate you next week. Mark my words, humiliation.” Bisping warned that for Rockhold to underestimate him might be at his peril, but the champion then delivered a cold warning, saying: “Mike, it’s going to be a bad night for you, my friend.”
Interspersed between the bonhomie displayed by the middleweights taking part in the main event was some serious vocal mudslinging between the bantamweights in the co-main event. Champion Dominick Cruz and contender Uriah Faber are not the best of buddies, to put it mildly, and it sounds like the two cannot wait to get into the octagon to settle the score (this will be their third fight, each man has one win over the other).
If the fights on the night are anything like the trash being talked in the run up to them, then fans can expect some fireworks in the octagon on June 4.