Jorge Rivera and Michael Bisping entered their middleweight affair Down Under with a considerable amount of bad blood hyping the contest. Rivera had drawn the Brit's ire through a series of YouTube videos in which “El Conquistador” and his team openly mocked Bisping.
When the pair finally stepped into the cage, the tension was high. After Bisping controlled the opening minutes by mixing his boxing with takedowns, he landed an illegal knee to the face of a kneeling Rivera. It looked as though the fight would be stopped, but Rivera gamely opted to continue. His efforts would be in vain, however, as Bisping finished the job in round two with a flurry of punches to his dazed opponent.
In the bout's aftermath, Bisping shouted at Rivera and allegedly demanded an apology. He also found his way to Rivera's corner and spat in the direction of the veteran's boxing coach, Matt Phinney, who gained fame by impersonating Bisping in the aforementioned YouTube videos. Following the incident, Rivera's team asked that Bisping be disciplined, not only for the illegal strike -- which Rivera's camp believes was intentional -- but also for Bisping's postfight actions.
Tuesday, Bisping's team at Wolfslair MMA responded to the situation in an official statement, claiming that Rivera and Phinney's behavior at the fighters' hotel was the primary instigator for Bisping's emotional reaction in the cage.
“In five years of competing in the UFC at every level, we have never encountered a more unprofessional outfit as Jorge Rivera’s camp. All the teams who rub shoulders regularly at all the events are always polite, respectful and courteous to each other, regardless of any of the fighters' smack talk or actions,” wrote Wolfslair head Anthony McGann. “As always, fighters are staying in close proximity in the hotel for over a week, and during the day the camps pass each other. Normally the fighters will be tense with their opponents, but the teams always remain neutral and polite. Rivera’s crew [was allegedly] mocking Mike and laughing at him, and Jorge even gave an interview to [AOL] FanHouse saying if Mike was a man he would confront him in the hotel.”
McGann also asserts that the Wolfslair camp understands why Rivera chose to make his hype videos, and that the YouTube shorts are not the cause of the camp's complaint. In particular, McGann singles out Phinney as the source of the unprofessional behavior. Regarding the illegal knee, Bisping's camp still claims that the blow was accidentally delivered in the heat of battle.
“The illegal knee was what it was. Mike was overexcited and timed it wrong. He is not known for illegal blows, although this does happen in the sport from time to time,” wrote McGann. “Whilst Rivera was recovering, Phinney was [allegedly] shouting obscenities to Mike. If you look, you can see Mike [allegedly] give him the [middle] finger in reply. [Phinney] was also hurling abuse at our cornermen. Once again, this behavior is unheard of in the UFC.”
On the topic of Bisping's spitting episode, McGann writes that Phinney's verbal taunts simply elicited an emotional response from the fighter.
“Mike was still emotional and asked Rivera for an apology. Still, Phinney was [allegedly] shouting abuse, and Mike replied to him. Mike did spit but on the floor in his direction, [but] not on him. Phinney was [allegedly] hurling abuse at Mike and our corner men the whole time.”
According to McGann, the blame for the situation falls on the shoulders of Rivera and his camp.
“Mike apologized [at] the press conference for losing his cool. He apologized [in] the post fight [interview] with Joe Rogan. The joke is after all the efforts that Rivera’s camp [allegedly] made to create this situation, it was them who complained afterward, not us. We have more respect for the UFC and did not want to make an issue of their behavior.”