Michael Bisping (right) stands one win away from a title shot. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Michael Bisping welcomes whatever extra motivation his adversary provides.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner will meet Vitor Belfort in the UFC on FX 7 headliner on Saturday at the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Bisping has been promised his long-sought shot at Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight king Anderson Silva, should he emerge victorious from the five-round battle with “The Phenom.” It comes as little surprise that he has learned to dislike Belfort, the man who stands between him and his golden opportunity.
“I have nothing personal against Vitor,” Bisping said during the pre-fight press conference. “He seems like a decent bloke, and he’s a hell of a fighter. Yeah, he said some things. He said I was a hooligan. That comment was probably made as a joke, but, for me, I’m going to fight this guy, so I take that personally because I need to. I like to take any little thing and turn it into a big thing, to get me emotional, to get me mad because, at the end of the day, this isn’t a game of tennis.
“We’re going to get in there, and we’re going to fight, and if I’m a little pissed off at the guy, then I’ll fight a hell of a lot better,” he added. “We can apologize afterwards. We can shake hands. I’ll buy the guy a drink after I beat him.”
Belfort returns to the 185-pound division after his failed bid to unseat light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in September. A devastating striker blessed with otherworldly hand speed, he has earned a reputation as a fast starter who tends to fade late in bouts. He aims to shed that label at Bisping’s expense.
“It doesn’t matter how long this fight lasts,” said Belfort, who owns a mediocre 4-5 record in fights that reach the judges. “Myself and my camp, we made a deal, and I’m not lying. If it lasts one, two or three rounds, I am still going to finish everything that I trained for inside of the gym. I am going to finish for 25 minutes. I am ready for 25 minutes of a tough fight.”
Bisping, one of the UFC’s best-conditioned athletes, shrugged at the thought.
“I’ll see you in the Octagon,” he added, “and you and your friends can go have a little training session after I kick the s--- out of you.”
The last time Gabriel Gonzaga won more than two fights in a row, he was the number one contender for the UFC heavyweight championship. Much has changed since 2007.
Gonzaga will put his modest two-fight winning streak on the line against former International Fight League cornerstone Ben Rothwell when the two lock horns in a featured heavyweight tilt. The 33-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt expects the seasoned Rothwell to pose a serious test.
“He is a well-rounded fighter and is a big name in the sport,” Gonzaga said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “He’s a very tough and experienced fighter with a lot of fights [under his belt].”
Rothwell last appeared at UFC 145 in April, when he needed all of 70 seconds to knock out “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 finalist Brendon Schaub at Philips Arena in Atlanta. However, the 31-year-old Kenosha, Wis., native has not recorded consecutive victories in more than five years.
“I’m training to finish this fight,” Rothwell said.
This & That
Since the Ultimate Fighting Championship opened for business in 1993, it has held five events in Brazil: UFC 17.5, UFC 134, UFC 142, UFC 147 and UFC 153 ... C.B. Dollaway, who faces Daniel Sarafian in an underwhelming co-main event, won a national wrestling championship at Colby Community College in Colby, Kan. He went on to become an All-American at Arizona State University ... All eight of Godofredo Castro’s wins have come by knockout, technical knockout or submission. His opponent, Milton Vieira, has never been finished in 22 professional appearances ... Nik Lentz was undefeated from Aug. 2, 2007 to Dec. 10, 2011, with 12 wins, two draws and a no contest ... Francisco Trinaldo’s nickname, “Massaranduba,” means redwood in Portuguese ... Wagner Prado recorded seven of his first eight wins by KO or TKO, six of them inside one round ... Three fighters will enter the Octagon unbeaten at UFC on FX 7: Khabib Nurmagomedov (18-0), Lucas Martins (12-0) and Andrew Craig (8-0).