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Middleweight contender Luke Rockhold looks to make statement in fight with Bisping

11/05/2014 11:11 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 05:59 EST
Like many of Michael Bisping's opponents, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is unimpressed by the brash Brit.

"Bisping, he's a piece of work," Rockhold said with an exasperated laugh. "The guy likes to run his mouth. I look forward to shutting it."

Rockhold (12-2) will get that chance Friday in Sydney, Australia, in the main event of a televised UFC card. A win can propel the American, currently ranked fifth among 185-pound contenders, nearer the front of the championship queue. Bisping (26-6) is ranked ninth.

The bad blood between them apparently dates back to an innocent sparring session.

Bisping, who was gearing up for a fight at the time, got under Rockhold's skin during a subsequent interview when, asked about the training session, said: "Let's just say I'm the unofficial Strikeforce champion."

Rockhold called the remark "completely tasteless." Bisping says it was an off-the cuff, humorous remark. "Get over it," he said.

Rockhold said he was coming off an injury at the time and looking to help Bisping rather than show off his skills, even switching stances as required.

"He's a prick everywhere in life," Rockhold said on a recent media conference call.

"Luke, I don't know you. I don't care for you," Bisping responded. "We haven't shared a single proper conversation so you're basing your facts or what you presume is facts on absolutely nothing, on fresh air."

The two fighters did exchange pleasantries in a coffee shop following Bisping's August win over Cung Le in Macau. It was there that Rockhold offered to switch purses if he finished Bisping in the first round and give up his purse if he didn't, no matter who won.

Rockhold said he was offering to put $50,000 (his basic purse) or $100,000 (basic purse plus win bonus) on the line.

"He wouldn't commit to the bet, unfortunately," said Rockhold.

"I'm a betting man. I like to gamble everywhere, everything I do," he added.

Bisping explained he made more than Rockhold so the bet wasn't fair. He did offer to buy the American a suit "when I kick your ass."

Bisping is known for his trash-talking outside the ring. The California-based English veteran can talk up a fight like few others. Combine that with a well-rounded game and a good gas tank and the 35-year-old former DJ and furniture maker has made a good living in the UFC.

But the six-foot-two Bisping has lost three of his last six, admittedly against good opposition in Tim Kennedy, Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen.

"He's technical, he's good," said Rockhold, who holds a win over Kennedy and lost to Belfort. "But I just know that I'm a lot better. I'm faster, I'm more technical and I have the intangibles that he doesn't have."

At six foot three, Rockhold is a big middleweight with a deep tool box. The black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu also trains with elite fighters at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose.

Rockhold has won two straight in the UFC since losing his debut to Belfort by head kick and has won 11 of his last 12.

He stopped Costas Philippou in 81 seconds, lashing him with a kick to the body, before submitting Tim (The Barbarian) Boetsch last time out via inverted triangle kimura in two minutes eight seconds.

Still, unlike the talkative Bisping, he has flown under the radar somewhat.

"It doesn't really matter to me. I know who I am and I know what my future holds," said the 30-year-old Rockhold. "I don't think I really have the respect that I think I deserve.

"I see guys like Jacare (Souza) ranked ahead of me (at No. 2), guys I beat. I believe I'm the best fighter in the world and I'm going to go out there and prove it again and again. This is another opportunity to showcase my skills."

He says he wants to finish Bisping off with a bang.

"I don't believe I really get much out of this fight by squeaking by and getting a win. I need to go out there and make a statement and put fear in the eyes of every middleweight out there."

He believes the key is to relax and not force things.

"I see so many good endings to this fight," he added.

In order to have the fight air on prime time in North America, the main event is taking place early afternoon Saturday Australia-time.

NOTES: Belfort's older brother is a pro surfer ... Canadian welterweight Chris (The Menace) Clements is also on the Sydney card. He takes on Australian Vik (The Spartan) Grujic.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

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