For the last several weeks, it was Jorge Rivera who dominated the pre-fight conversation with a series of YouTube videos mocking fellow UFC middleweight Michael Bisping. But at Tuesday's UFC 127 press conference in Sydney it was Bisping who did most of the talking, and Rivera had relatively few answers for him.
"For me, I've got a big fight to prepare for," said Bisping. "I'm fighting in the premiere fighting organization in the world and I'm trying to behave accordingly. I'm a professional fighter; I'm not an idiot in the schoolyard, making up silly rhymes and jokes and making stupid videos.
"This is a press conference, by the way, Jorge," Bisping added, turning to address his opponent, who sat on the other side of the podium with a baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes. "This is what you do. I know it's your first time being involved in something like this. Welcome to the big leagues. After this you'll be back to the undercard, believe me."
For his part, Rivera offered only brief replies, and only when directly prodded. Rivera acknowledged that his video campaign against Bisping was partly for fun and hype, but also partly "to get in his head."
"You see how he reacts and what's going on," Rivera said, nodding in the direction of a visibly agitated Bisping. "I'm cool with it."
Bisping said he was looking forward to "correcting [Rivera] on a few of his opinions" once fight night rolls around, adding, "I believe he's massively underestimating me and I'm looking forward to making a fool out of him on the night."
Said Bisping, "I'm talking now, but I want to do most of my talking on the night. I'm going to do my talking with my fists, punches, kicks, knees, elbows, jiu-jitsu, wrestling – half of that stuff he doesn't know what it is. Jorge's a relic. He's a throwback to the beginnings of mixed martial arts. I'm a complete mixed martial artist and I'll be showing him that on the night. I'll do most of my talking then."
"I look forward to that," Rivera replied.
"And so do I," Bisping shot back.
Perhaps the most spirited exchange between the two may have been one that few people heard as the fighters squared off for the customary post-presser photo-op. Bisping moved in close to Rivera and appeared to be giving him an earful as Rivera nodded and mouthed a few words back. As Bisping stepped in closer and gestured at Rivera, UFC UK president Marshall Zelaznik made a move to get in between the two.
Whether Rivera's aim with the videos was purely about hype and humor, or whether it was more strategic, one thing that seems abundantly clear after Tuesday's press conference is that no matter how it started between these two, it's personal now.
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