When it came to their time together atop the UFC’s middleweight division, there was little love lost between Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold. The two men first faced off in 2014, at UFC Sydney—a bout Rockhold won by second round submission. But, even in the lead up to that fight, there was some animosity brewing.
“I think Bisping’s just a douche,” Rockhold told fans during a 2014 Q&A, when asked to compare and contrast the ‘Count’ with fellow outspoken middleweight Chael Sonnen. “Chael is putting on an act. He talks trash, but he’s the most respectful guy every time I’ve met him. Chael plays a role. Bisping plays himself.”
Obviously, their title fight rematch two years after that first bout only heightened the rivalry. Bisping’s first round KO of the longtime AKA talent at UFC 199 spelled the end of Rockhold’s brief tenure as champion, and became a crowning glory in the ‘Count’’s MMA career. Time, however, has a way of healing all wounds, and by 2021 the two former foes were even spending some time in the gym training together.
So it’s perhaps not too terribly surprising that, in a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Bisping had a lot of kind words to say about his longtime rival as Rockhold heads off to MMA retirement.
“I wish you all the best in retirement, Luke. I really, really do mean that,” Bisping said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I know we had some back and forths over the years, but it was just competitive. Just rivals, sporting rivals. I’m sure if we met under different circumstances — in fact, I always said this — I’m sure we’d get along. We’ve got some mutual friends and Jason Parillo thinks the world of you as well. So congratulations in what you do.”
Bisping event went so far as to say that he believe Rockhold has been “underappreciated” by a lot of MMA fans. Fans who maybe aren’t familiar with the career Rockhold had in Strikeforce before he came to the UFC, or the amount of guts it took to come back from a long layoff into a bout with an opponent like Paulo Costa.
“Luke, I do believe is underappreciated by a lot of people,” Bisping explained. “The run that he had, the career that he had, Strikeforce champion, UFC champion, always a top contender, always in big fights, always took on the best challenges. I mean look at that, he just came back after three years of being away and took on Paulo Costa, one of the toughest guys in the division, one of the top guys, one of the hardest hitting and one of the hardest hitting with the best chins. There’s not a lot of people queuing up to take on that guy when they’ve been out of the octagon for three years…
“So Luke, whatever you’re going to do in retirement, mate, enjoy. You had a fantastic career. I think people still don’t give him the credit that he was due, but I do.”
Rockhold announced the end of his MMA career after dropping a unanimous decision to Costa at UFC 278 back in August. That fight marked his first return to action since suffering a second round KO to future light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in 2019.
Bisping stepped into the cage for the last time way back in 2017, suffering a first round KO loss to Kelvin Gastelum. That bout came just three weeks after losing the middleweight title he took off Rockhold to welterweight legend Georges St-Pierre. In the time since, Bisping has become a fixture in the UFC commentary booth.
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