Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold heated up the streets of Australia recently with an impromptu brawl following a press conference.
The two middleweights will get to settle things when they square off at UFC Fight Night 55 this November from Sydney.
Both are coming off wins, as Bisping (25-6) earned a fourth round TKO over Cung Le to avoid his first-ever losing streak, while Rockhold (12-2) has rebounded from a 2013 loss to Vitor Belfort with first round stoppages of Tim Boetsch and Costas Philippou.
After they nearly came to blows, Submission Radio caught up with both fighters to discuss the contest.
“The Count” stated that he believes the former Strikeforce champion will look to impose the will of his training camp in their meeting, bringing the contest to the ground. Rockhold trains out of American Kickboxing Academy, the same gym of UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier.
“I think he’s gonna try and take me down. He comes from a good team that has lots of good wrestlers. Obviously Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, people like that. You know, he’s got lots of good training partners, and he’s got good jiu-jitsu. He really has got a decent game on the ground. So I think for all his talk, and this and that, he’s gonna try to take me down and try exploit a ‘weakness; that I’ve got on the floor, cause I get ‘tapped’ out all the time,” he said. “He couldn’t do anything. He can’t reverse triangle, he couldn’t reverse a car, let alone reverse a triangle on me. Never been tapped out in my life, just throwing that out there.”
Instead, Bisping believes his striking will be quicker than Rockhold’s and he’ll be able to control the action standing. The Brit owns 15 knockout wins to his credit.
“I’m gonna beat him to the punch all night long. I’m gonna beat him to the punch and the kick. I’m way faster than him, I can take him down, I know I can. He’s got skills. He’s got legit skills, but he’s not as fast as me, and speed kills,” Bisping said. “He keeps talking about knockout power. Out there in my face he was saying ‘who was the last guy you knocked out?’ I said ‘what do you mean? You sat there ringside two weeks ago when I knocked out your best friend and bum-chum Cung Le.’ I knocked him flying. I knee’d him in the face and the guy looked like he tried out for the Olympic gymnastics team. He did a backflip through the air.
“And then I said ‘who have you knocked out in one round?‘ Because I’ll tell you what, if you look at my record, the first 10 fights of my career where all first round knockouts. So trust me, I’ve got the power. And I said ‘come on. Give me a name’, and he said ‘Costas Philippou’, I said ‘that wasn’t a knock out. You kicked him in the stomach and you winded him. Fair play, nice kick, but it wasn’t a knockout.’ I said ‘give me a name,’ and he couldn’t do it. So he needs to think his insults through. If he’s going ask me to name somebody, he should have one in the bank. Just for when I come back at him. He needs to think about that.”
Rockhold, who hasn’t gone to a decision since a 2012 victory over Tim Kennedy, responded to the claims of “taking it to the ground.”
“There’s nothing in me that wants to take it to the ground. I just wanna beat him up,” he said. “I’m pretty much just going to go pick him apart on the feet. I’m so much better than him there. He’s a mechanical fighter and just doesn’t have any power, and I’m gonna be more fluid. I’m gonna cut him off, I’m gonna be more technical, I’m gonna have better footwork and I’m gonna hit a lot harder than him, and I’m gonna put everything on him, and it’s gonna be all stand up for one whole round, or not even one whole round.”
While his focus remains solely on Bisping, Rockhold can’t help but look towards the future. Many are claiming Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza as the next contender to the middleweight belt; a position he feels should be his.
“I believe I’m the best for the job. I believe I’m the best in the world, you know truly. Jacare is the other No. 1 contender and I beat Jacare for the title in a five round war, and you know I’ll go out there and prove myself again,” he said. “He’s a very tough guy and he had a great fight, but I believe I’ve grown a lot more than him and I believe I can go out there and beat him and make it decisive. I believe I can probably finish him this time, you know. I’m gonna focus on Bisping and you know if they want me to fight again, I’ll fight Jacare or (Lyoto) Machida. I’ll prove myself once again, but I believe I’m the best in the world.”