Michael Bisping can't help but laugh at how angry he makes Luke Rockhold
It's hard to imagine Michael Bisping apologizing for anything he's ever said since the first day he debuted as part of the Ultimate Fighter 3 cast.
Bisping has been known as one of the most prolific trash talkers in the history of sports, but an off the cuff remark made during the filming of a television show in 2012 eventually led to his showdown with Luke Rockhold next weekend as the headline fight for the UFC's return to Australia.
"Let me put it like this," Bisping said in the interview. "I've sparred with Luke Rockhold recently and let's just say, I'm the unofficial Strikeforce champion. These are the facts."
The remark was met with more than a few laughs and made headlines on every major MMA site on the internet, but there was one person who didn't find any humor in Bisping's words -- Luke Rockhold, who was the Strikeforce middleweight champion at the time.
So recently when the two sat down to film a segment for a special airing on FOX Sports 1, Bisping tried to tell Rockhold that he was sorry for making the comment in the first place. The general rule of thumb amongst fighters is what happens in the gym, stays in the gym. Bisping broke it and he apologized for it.
"Just because I got the best of him in our sparring match, because I certainly did and he knows it. He did round one, sat out for two rounds, came back in round four and still got his ass kicked. I'm the first know that doesn't mean s--t that I got the better of him in a sparring session," Bisping told FOX Sports.
"It doesn't mean that I win the fight automatically and I told him that. I said listen get over it. I was just trying to be entertaining on a TV show and have a laugh and I apologized and he could never get over it."
Bisping definitely has an innate ability to get under his opponent's skin, but when it comes to the matchup with Rockhold he claims he's never done anything out of sorts to annoy him on purpose. Whatever he has been saying, Rockhold has been listening and Bisping knows for a fact just how perturbed he really is going into their fight.
"To be honest I'm not actually going out there and trying to engage in mental warfare, but I think Luke has got himself so worked up he's doing it for me," Bisping said. "Cause I'm not doing anything. I know he's a tough test and I'm training hard and I'm just focusing on that. I know it's been sold as this big grudge match and in some ways it is. We certainly don't like each other and none of it is manufactured, but I'm going down there to take care of business."
While filming the segment at the FOX studios with commentator Jon Anik sitting between them for almost an hour, Bisping says the tension was palpable. Rockhold was seething with animosity.
Things got so heated there were a few moments Bisping was convinced the camera crew filming the session were going to get an impromptu preview of the upcoming fight.
"Luke Rockhold, he's just fuming. When I was filming that thing with Jon Anik, I just found that thing highly amusing. Because just being next to me, being in the room with me, he can't contain himself. He gets so mad and so frustrated. He was fighting back so hard just standing up and punching me the whole time," Bisping said. "For me I get a big kick out of it."
For all the disdain these two fighters share for one another, Bisping won't discount Rockhold as if he's not a threat when they meet in the Octagon next Saturday. One sparring session together doesn't give either man a real leg up on the other when it comes to the fight.
Bisping has watched Rockhold a lot since his debut in the UFC and he's not above saying the former Strikeforce champion has been impressive. Then again, Bisping isn't quite sure if the Strikeforce transfer has looked good against lesser competition or the real Rockhold is the one who got knocked out by Vitor Belfort in his debut?
"It is possible that was the real Luke Rockhold. He came over to the UFC and got knocked out," Bisping said. "He likes to talk about stopping me inside the first round. I'm like listen mate you need to shut the f--k up talking about first round knockouts. There's only one of us that's been finished inside the first round and it ain't me.
"He came back against Costas Philippou and Tim Boestch and looked good, but I've never ranked either of those guys very highly to be honest."
Rankings might be a big reason why Bisping is so amped up about next weekend's matchup because when you strip away all the bad blood, trash talk and periphery of pre-fight publicity, he's about to take on the No. 5 fighter in the division.
For those keeping score at home, Bisping is currently ranked No. 9.
In other words, a win over Rockhold moves him way up the ladder.
"Rockhold has got a lot of hype behind him and people are talking about him maybe being the next No. 1 contender," Bisping said. "Well if you beat the man, you become the man. I feel I've got his number to be honest."