Hype does sell fights, but sometimes at an unwanted cost. What began as commonplace pre-fight smack talk between “The Count” Michael Bisping (21-3) and “El Conquistador” Jorge Rivera (18-8) in the weeks preceding their UFC 127 bout turned into below-the-belt mud slinging laced with venom and vitriol by the time their co-main event’s weigh-ins rolled around last Friday, as the two men looked ready to throw down right there and literally had to be separated by UFC President Dana White. Then the next day at UFC 127: Fitch vs. Penn, as each of the middleweight contenders took his place inside the cage of the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia, the men seemed intent only on walking out of the cage with his opponent’s head on a stick.
After six minutes and 54 seconds of the contest, Bisping was dubbed the winner via technical knockout – but it was not without consequence. During the fight, Bisping threw an illegal knee to the head of a downed Rivera (which many still question whether or not it was intentional), badly disorienting “El Conquistador” and prompting the cageside doctor to encourage Rivera to allow the fight to be stopped. Rivera continued on only to be battered around and finally sent to the mat for the last time less than halfway through the second stanza. “The Count” stalked about the cage, reveling in his victory, and in the process exchanged some rather vehement words with Rivera’s camp – namely boxing coach Matt Phinney, reportedly. The notoriously hot-headed Brit then threw several barrels of gasoline on the fire when he approached Rivera’s corner men, delivered a few choice words, pressed his face against the cage, and spit at, near, or on (depending on who is asked) his opponent’s coaches. Needless to say, Bisping’s actions were not received very well by the audience, Rivera’s camp, or Dana White.
As the adage goes, There are three sides to every story: What happened according to Person A, what happened according to Person B, and what really happened. This is what happened according to the management team of Wolfslair MMA Academy, where Bisping trains in the UK.
I would like to give our take on what happened in Australia. Let me begin first by saying that 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. all the camps will attest to this. Along comes this [Matt] Phinney guy out of the blue, he is Rivera’s boxing coach and the guy who features heavily in the YouTube videos making fun of Mike Bisping.
These videos were made with two purposes. One was to promote their tee shirt line ranger up and the second was to goad Mike into a brawl as this was their only chance of winning the fight. Okay well no problem so far, business is business and if that’s how they rely to win a fight then more power to them. The video’s poked fun at Mike in a personal way and to English people in general and had a huge amount of success. If you combine the numbers on YouTube over the four video’s I believe were in the half million bracket. That is phenomenal considering the campaign was over three weeks. So let’s be clear this wasn’t just banter going back and forth it was significant. Once again at this stage still no problem. It was adding hype to the fight.
The real problems begin in the hotel in Australia. 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 opponent but the teams always remain neutral and polite. Rivera’s crew were mocking mike and laughing at him and Jorge even gave an interview to Fanhouse saying if Mike was a man he would confront him in the hotel.
This situation was the reason for the emotional weigh-ins and throughout the catalyst was Phinney. In fact Rivera had two more coaches who never participated in any of this, they did act professional. It was always Rivera and Phinney. If you look at all the ranger up YouTube stuff it seems Phinney is the driving force behind the company and it was him even up to the point on the scale who was constantly goading Mike. I believe he should have concentrated more on real fight preparation like we did than silly childish games and behaviour.
This fight was not your normal fight, the hype was immense and I am sure the fans felt this. The illegal knee was what it was, Mike was over excited and timed it wrong. He is not known for illegal blows although this does happen in the sport from time to time. Whilst Rivera was recovering, Phinney was shouting obscenities to Mike if you look you can see Mike give him the finger in reply. He was also hurling abuse at our corner men, once again this behaviour is unheard of in the UFC. Anyway YouTube videos and goading Mike did him no good and Mike dispatched him with ease.
Mike was still emotional and asked Rivera for an apology, still Phinney was shouting abuse and Mike replied to him, Mike did spit but on the floor in his direction not on him. Phinney was hurling abuse at Mike and our corner men the whole time. His behaviour at the cage was disgusting and unbefitting of the UFC and I won’t go into any more detail as Phinney doesn’t deserve any notoriety. He does not reflect in anyway the normal conduct of us and the rest of the teams. If that’s how he has behaved at other events then he needs to go back to them. Although I believe that after this we won’t be hearing much of Mr. Phinney anymore.
Mike apologised in the press conference for losing his cool, he apologised on the post fight with Joe Rogan, the joke is after all the efforts the Rivera’s camp made to create this situation it was them who complained afterwards not us, we have more respect for the UFC and did not want to make an issue of their behaviour.
Wolfslair MMA Academy