While Luke Rockhold may have handily dispatched Michael Bisping in their 2014 meeting, the recently crowned middleweight champion isn’t looking past “The Count” in their rematch.
“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 obviously making dollars,” Rockhold said during a recent conference call. “So going out there and getting to shut Mike’s mouth, getting to shut all these guy’s mouths, all these guys have made excuses: Mike, Chris Weidman, ‘Jacare.’ But guess what? I beat them all and I’m going to beat them all again one at a time. They’re all going to get theirs.”
Bisping stepped in to replace Weidman against Rockhold in the UFC 199 headliner on two week’s notice after Weidman withdrew from the bout to undergo surgery for a herniated disc in his neck. Ronaldo Souza would have been next in line to face Rockhold, but “Jacare” needed to repair a torn meniscus before being able to return to the Octagon. Enter Bisping, who will fight for UFC gold for the first time in his 25-bout promotional tenure.
“Mike, he’s a tough dude. He’s got balls. He took this fight. But this will not be his fairy tale. This will be his swan song,” Rockhold said. “This will be the end of him. I’m going to dominate this guy like he’s never been before. He had the most one-sided fight of his career last time we were out, and it’s going to be that much worse.”
Bisping has won three straight fights since his second-round submission defeat to Rockhold, including a decision victory over former pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva in February. Considering the circumstances, Rockhold believes Bisping is the right man to take the temporary No. 1 contender spot.
“Mike’s a tough dude, resilient, came back and he’s worked his way back up, and I think he’s earned this shot,” he said. “I think he’s the most credible guy. I mean, Jacare had a questionable fight against Yoel [Romero] that I thought he won, and he came back and has a nice victory, so he’s right there. But Mike is right there. If you look at the lay of the land, he deserves this s--t.”
Rockhold and Bisping have no trouble trading verbal jabs -- it happened prior to their first bout and the two rivals went back-and-forth again with no verbal cues during the recent media call. Still, Rockhold has a certain level of respect for what his opponent does well, although he doesn’t think those attributes will be nearly enough come fight night.
“He’s a clever cat. He gets you excited to watch his fights, and he fights with heart. He fights to the best of his ability, and he seemingly has fought fair for most of his career. So I respect guys in that manner because he’ll step up and he’ll take opportunities like he was given just now and not a lot of guys will do that,” Rockhold said.
“So, he’s a tough dude and he’ll step to the plate. That’s where I lie with Bisping. He’s going to give you your money’s worth verbally. I’m going to give you your money’s worth physically. And in the end we’re all going to win -- except, obviously, Bisping, that is.”