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Michael Bisping fires back at Luke Rockhold: 'I'll see you in Australia, you a--hole'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

For all the talk of missed windows and squandered opportunities, the fact still rings true that Michael Bisping can hold court with the best of them. At 35 years old, the O.G. of brash UFC Europeans pumped some life into his simmering feud with Luke Rockhold on a Tuesday conference call to promote UFC Fight Night 55, interrupting his fellow middleweight contender's laid-back approach to remind everybody exactly why the two were fighting in the first place.

"Allow me to shed some light on the situation, because Luke, I'm not sure he's aware that it's a f**king conference call so he's supposed to talk and try to be a little bit eloquent and get your side of the story over," said Bisping. "Luke, I don't know you, I don't care for you. We haven't shared a single proper conversation, so you're basing your facts, or what you presume as facts, on absolutely nothing, on fresh air. We've had one conversation of the sparring match in question that everybody talks about. You don't know me, you don't know me as a person, so kiss my f**king ass, you lanky piece of s**t. I'll see you in Australia, you asshole. I'm going to put it all to bed then."

Bisping and Rockhold and slated to meet next Saturday in the headlining act of the UFC's latest Fight Pass offering, but the dislike the two share for one another stretch as far back as Rockhold's Strikeforce days, when Bisping made an offhand remark on national television about being the real Strikeforce champion after allegedly besting Rockhold in a sparring match.

The rivals have shared more than few run-ins since, from their mid-morning Macau encounter -- of which Bisping called Rockhold "an absolute liar" for his depiction -- to their heated Sydney staredown in September. All the while Rockhold has maintained that he would outclass Bisping when and if the pair ever met, and the tension between the two reached a point on Tuesday in which they were trading insults about who suffered the worse knockout at the hands of Vitor Belfort.

"I'm not upset about any of his remarks," Bisping said afterward. "Anything that Luke Rockhold said doesn't really register with me, to be honest. The guy is just trying to jump on a bandwagon: ‘oh, I'm doing this for the sake of everybody, he's such an asshole, no one likes him.' Nobody has any right to base that opinion on anything, because when I'm outside of the Octagon, I'm at home with my wife and kids, so I don't know where he's basing this whole bad guy image on."

Rockhold's largely nonchalant demeanor stands in stark contrast to the bravado Bisping has and always will bring to his fights. But of late the American has begun questioning whether all that English fire is really a façade, a mere show Bisping pushes to mask the fact that he doesn't enjoy fighting at all.

"It's obvious that if you've been analyzing me, you clearly don't have a psychology degree," Bisping said in response to Rockhold's claim. "So quit the amateur philosophy there because listen, I love fighting. I truly love it. That's why I do it. Nobody puts a gun to my head and makes me fight. I don't do it out of necessity, I don't do it because I have to do it for the money or anything like that. I truly love doing this. I've done it since I was eight years old. Eight years old I first walked into a jiu-jitsu gym, and at the end of it we put the gloves on and we started boxing, and that's what really set my imagination on fire and kept me walking into the gym every single time.

"I never shy away from any challenges. I love fighting, I feel alive when I do it, it puts a smile on my face. I was put on this planet to be a fighter, so the guy is clutching at straws, at best, with that comment."

While the animosity between the Bisping and Rockhold can serve as a fun distraction for some, there's no question as to the importance of this fight in the grand scheme of the division. Both middleweights are potentially one or, at most, two fights away from a UFC title shot, and for Bisping, this could very realistically be a last run.

"The Count" is the division's elder statesmen, a rock who's stood near the top since 2006, graced the Octagon more times than a handful of his division-mates combined, but always tumbled down the mountainside before he could plant his flag upon the summit. And for a man who's never lacked in self-awareness, this fact is not lost on Bisping.

"Perhaps in the past that's been my downfall, focusing on my opponent too much, thinking too much about them, obsessing over them, thinking about how they're going to approach the fight," he said. "I'm too long in the tooth to do that these days. I'm too experienced.

"Yes, I've gotten to the top of the sport and then I fell short, but I think the fact that I've been there so many times is a testament to my fighting ability, my character, and my will to win, which says a lot for a guy who apparently doesn't like to fight. I've been there several times. Most people only get there once. I've dusted myself off, I've come back a better fighter. I've truly learned from all my losses and I'm still as hungry as the first day that I ever put a pair of gloves on. I still want to be world champion, I know I can do it. I'm physically in my prime, and I'm mentally better than ever. I still dream of being world champion, and that all starts next weekend."

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