Michael Bisping had an intense rivalry with Luke Rockhold during their time in the UFC, including both holding a stoppage win over the other, but the ice between the two former middleweight champions appears to have thawed in the years since, to the extent that ‘The Count’ has issued a new video praising his former foe as he heads into retirement.
“I wish you all the best in retirement, Luke. I really, really do mean that,” Bisping said on his YouTube channel. “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.
“It’s weird because he was always a guy who was kind of subject to a lot of ridicule. And I know I didn’t help a lot of stuff with the ‘Conceive, believe, achieve’ thing and I kind of turned him into a little bit of a meme, but that’s what you do. When you’re fighting each other, you make fun of one another. Then obviously he was always ‘a little bit arrogant,’ but you need that. You have to be arrogant as a fighter. You’re stepping foot into an octagon, in front of 20,000 people, with the entire world watching. Believe it or not, you have to have some self-belief and you have to have confidence. So that was always the issue there. Maybe he was a little misunderstood, maybe some of the things didn’t come out the right way, but Saturday night, when the fight was done, when the dust was settled, we saw from Luke Rockhold a look into him. He pulled back the curtain, you got to see the real Luke, and he was very emotional, and rightly so.
“You go in there into the octagon, you put your heart and soul into it, you try your god damn best, and you come up short, it’s not enough. I thought it was really real, I thought it was honest. It was emotional. It was, seeing him like that, getting upset. I’ve been there myself. I remember when I fought Anderson Silva, I was in tears after that because you pour so much into it. It’s not just a physical thing, it’s a mental thing, it’s an emotional thing. You’re fighting for your life, kind of, in there. Of course you’re not going to die. The referee’s going to step in, but it feels like that. It’s so visceral and animalistic. You are emptying the tank that you have in every single way possible. And that’s why we saw him the way it was.
“Luke, I do believe is underappreciated by a lot of people,” Bisping said. “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 queueing up to take on that guy when they’ve been out of the octagon for three years…
“To go out there and lose three of your last four, all by knockout, to then go and take three years away from the sport and come back and go right in, co-main event, in a pay-per-view, against Paulo Costa, an absolute killer, that tells you the measure of the man. That tells you what the man is made of and what he thinks of himself and the kind of challenges and risks he’s willing to take…
“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.”