The media conference call between Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping was exactly what everyone thought it would be.
On multiple occasions, the Tuesday question-and-answer session deteriorated into a trash-talking session between the two rivals that might mirror their bout at UFC Fight Night on Fight Pass on Nov. 7 in Sydney, Australia: both got their licks in.
"The difference between me and Michael is the difference between our beards — I’m just more of a man than him," Rockhold said.
That was one of the call’s parting shots. It was Bisping who got things going early, before he was even asked a question. Rockhold said he has heard from others that Bisping is "a prick everywhere in life." The Brit took exception to that remark, as you might expect.
"You don’t know me as a person, so kiss my f***ing ass, you lanky piece of s***," Bisping said.
The two also explained the root of their dislike: a comment Bisping made about besting Rockhold in a sparring session years ago. The back-and-forth has only escalated in recent months on social media and Bisping’s appearances on FOX Sports 1.
Rockhold said that things reached a fever pitch when the two of them were in Macao. The morning after Bisping defeated Rockhold’s training partner Cung Le, Bisping and Rockhold ran into each other at a coffee shop in the hotel. Bisping was with his father and a friend. Rockhold said that Bisping’s friend was talking trash — and that Bisping’s father even joined in egging him on at one point during the weekend in China.
Rockhold said he walked over to where the three of them were and proposed a bet that Bisping would not get out of the first round if the two fought. If Rockhold finished within the first round, he would get Bisping’s fight purse. If Bisping made it to the second, he would get Rockhold’s money.
"I had no choice but to butt in," Rockhold said. … "It was an unavoidable situation."
Bisping’s tale was different. He said his friend didn’t say a word to Rockhold.
"You’re an absolute liar," Bisping said. "No one was looking at you. You showed a lack of class and I’ll punish you for it next week."
We all know you like to spit on people after the fight. That is what you are. Your true colors show after the fight and that’s you.
-Luke Rockhold to Michael Bisping
Rockhold shot back that Bisping doesn’t just talk trash to hype fights — that he’s a jerk to people all the time.
"We all know you like to spit on people after the fight," Rockhold said. … "That is what you are. Your true colors show after the fight and that’s you."
Aside from the banter, there are serious stakes for this main event. Rockhold (12-2), the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, is ranked No. 5 among middleweight contenders and, at age 30, is closing in on a title shot. A win against Bisping could potentially earn him one. Bisping (25-6), meanwhile, has been a top-10 middleweight in the UFC for nearly a decade. The 35-year-old is currently ranked No. 9 coming off his dominant, fourth-round TKO of Le.
"I still dream of being world champion," Bisping said. "I’ve been here for a long time, but I’m not going anywhere yet."
Rockhold is a significant favorite — almost 5-to-1 — and coming in extremely confident. He has won two straight after his knockout loss to Vitor Belfort in May 2013.
"He’s going to realize there’s a big difference between me and him," Rockhold said. "He’s going to be in for a rude awakening."
And no, Rockhold wasn’t talking about Bisping’s beard. This time.
"Good for you, well done," Bisping said. "You’ve got more pubes on your face."