Michael Bisping had some choice words for Luke Rockhold. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Another opponent, another high-profile beef for Michael Bisping.
The outspoken Brit has long been a target for fighters in the UFC’s middleweight division, thanks in large part to Bisping’s perceived heel persona. If “The Count” is fighting, it’s probably safe to assume people are going to tune in -- if only to root against him.
Like many before him, Luke Rockhold enters his UFC Fight Night bout in Sydney with plenty of animosity for Bisping. Whether that stems from actual interaction or is mostly manufactured depends on whom you ask.
“He just seems to not be a nice genuine guy to most people. I mean he only like carries himself to, you know, is nice to people... to further himself and people [that] are going to help him. I really heard a lot of things about him not being nice to the average Joe, really,” Rockhold said during a recent UFC conference call.
“I mean, you’ve got to treat people the way you want to be treated, and it seems like he’s a prick everywhere in life, so I want to know what he’s not happy about,” Rockhold continued. “But, you know, I’m looking forward to making everybody else happy.”
Bisping, meanwhile, claims that his relationship with Rockhold is virtually non-existent. Instead, he believes the American Kickboxing Academy standout is simply jumping on the ever popular anti-Bisping bandwagon.
“Luke, I don’t know you. I don’t care for you,” Bisping replied. “We haven’t shared a single proper conversation, so you’re basing your facts or what you presume is facts on absolutely nothing, on fresh air.
“We have had one conversation, after the sparring matching question everybody talks about. You don’t know me. You don’t know me as a person. So kiss my f---ing ass, you lanky piece of s--t. I’ll see you in Australia, you asshole. We’ll put it all to bed then.”
The sparring session in question occurred a few years ago. Bisping did an interview where he claimed to have gotten better of Rockhold, referring to himself “the unofficial Strikeforce champion.” Not surprisingly, Bisping’s decision to break one of the sport’s unspoken rules -- what happens in practice stays in the gym -- didn’t sit well with Rockhold. While Bisping would later apologize for those remarks, he has no regrets about saying what he said.
“It was a light-hearted comment; it was a joke,” Bisping said. “If he had a sense of humor he would have gotten that. Was it a little bit disrespectful? Of course it was, and that’s why I immediately apologized. Do I regret it? No, I don’t regret it. I certainly got a good laugh out of it at the time.” Rockhold and Bisping crossed paths again in August following the Manchester native’s win over Cung Le in Macau. Rockhold’s account of what exactly happened during that coffee-shop confrontation differs significantly from Bisping’s.
“So I’m trying to get this coffee and the little guy is just staring at me and just like blabbing, like just running his mouth, just, you know, just trying to egg me on. And I’m just sitting there. I’m like trying to ignore the little guy, and it’s completely unavoidable,” Rockhold said.
Rockhold said he responded by offering Bisping half of his purse if the Englishman made it out of the first round when they fought.
“From then on he blew it all out of proportion, jumped up in my face and said oh, I’m disrespectful,” Rockhold continued. “[He] tried to turn it into a very disrespectful thing and then I, of course, stood my ground…. I put my hand out, gentlemen’s bet, that’s how I offered it. I didn’t get crazy. The little guy was on my case and it was an unavoidable situation.”
Bisping, meanwhile, claims that Rockhold’s tale has more than a few embellishments.
“Allow me to clarify through all that bulls--t. So he does admit that he walked off and challenged me to a bet when I was with my father. The guy that he’s talking about in question-- Mick -- doesn’t say two words to anyone,” Bisping said. “He’s one of the quietest human beings you will ever see -- he said that this guy was staring at him, talking s--t.
“Luke, you’re an absolute liar. You’re an absolute liar. Nobody was looking at you. You came over. You interrupted. You showed a lack of class and I’ll punish you for it.”
At the end of the day, such verbal sparring is business as usual for Bisping. These days, it seems that Bisping vs. anyone can sell itself without much promotion from the UFC. Maybe that’s why Rockhold dove headlong into the feud. Such visibility can’t hurt when UFC brass are weighing the merits of potential title contenders.
It will, however, take more than harsh words to defeat Bisping come fight night.
“Anything that Luke Rockhold says doesn’t register, to be honest,” Bisping said. “You’re trying to jump on the bandwagon: ‘I’m doing this for the sake of everybody, he’s such an asshole, no one likes him.’
“When I’m outside of the Octagon I’m at home with the wife and kids. I don’t know what he’s basing this bad guy image on. I’m going down there to take care of business. Luke Rockhold is not somebody I obsess about.”