A testy Michael Bisping and at least three minutes of Spanish and Portuguese punctuated the conference call for UFC 110 on Wednesday. The event will be held in Sydney, Australia where, despite higher ticket prices than other international events, tickets sold out in less than a day. The pay-per-view airs in the U.S. on Feb. 20 at 10 p.m. ET.
The fighters refrained from smack-talk during the call and respectfully suffered through some inane questions about time zone differences and styles. First-generation American Cain Velasquez and Brazilians Wanderlei Silva and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira showed their fluencies when requested to switch from English to answer some questions. Bisping took umbrage to questions regarding his loss to Dan Henderson in UFC 100, perhaps rightfully so considering Bisping has fought since then (Bisping beat Denis Kang at UFC 105 in November).
Bisping sounded pained — but not surprised — at questions regarding in-ring tactics against Henderson, thoughts on Henderson moving to Strikeforce and finally whether he had been humbled by the loss.
“I’m not sure I appreciate the tone of the question or tone of voice but I’ll carry on,” he said at one point. “You learn from all your losses. It’s a cliché to say you come back bigger and stronger, but I certainly have.”
The following are the fighters’ condensed thoughts from Wednesday’s call.
“The Count” began his MMA career 14-0 and won the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter” at light heavyweight. Bisping (18-2) is 4-1 at middleweight. His two losses: former UFC champion Rashad Evans and Henderson, the former Pride champion.
On Wanderlei Silva: “What you have to do is find is sparring partners with his style. One thing England isn’t short of is a lot of brawlers. To be honest, in some respects, he isn’t the most difficult guy to prepare for. There is a striking element and looping punches and outside of that there isn’t much else. We have lots of guys to replicate that style. Wanderlei is a strong puncher but I am planning to meet him toe-to-toe.”
On Silva’s drop to middleweight: “I think people are making too much out of the fight at 185. Wanderlei is a very experienced fighter. He knows what he has to do. I’m thinking he will come in at 185 and be in terrific shape.”
On training with Rampage Jackson: “We met in late 2006 at a seminar in England, a chance meeting really. We just hit it off. We have similar sense of humor and similar personalities. We get on really well. Having Rampage in the camp the last few weeks has given me a lot of insight into the fight. Obviously, he and Wanderlei have some history. Someone with Rampage’s experience and knowing Wanderlei like he does has been invaluable.”
On getting knocked out by Henderson: “I think I was wining the second round until he hit me with that shot. Before that fight, I was under the impression I could stand with anyone for three five-minute rounds and not get knocked out. What I learned was not be too worried about your opponent and make them worry about you. I didn’t fight to the best of my performance. Lesson learned. Onwards and upwards from now on.”
On Chael Sonnen being named the next top contender at middleweight: “I think Chael did a great job against a tough opponent and he went through him very easily. He hasn’t done as much to warrant a title shot as Nate Marquardt would have done, but he beat the No. 1 contender and if you beat the No. 1 contender that makes you the No. 1 contender. If all goes well next Saturday, maybe a fight with Chael. Who knows?”
The “Axe Murderer” held the Pride 205-pound title for more than five years. Known for his simple and brutally effective fighting style, the 33-year-old is showing some wear on the tires. Silva (32-10-1) once had an 18-fight unbeaten streak, but has lost five of his last six fights. However, all five losses were to former UFC or Pride champions.
On dropping to middleweight: “I feel so great. I’m so fast. My cardio is better. I feel like I will have a great performance in this division.
On Chael Sonnen being named the next No. 1 contender at middleweight: “Maybe he needs to fight with me or Bisping next.”
On fighting an up-and-comer for the first time in several years: “Every time Joe Silva gives an opponent for me, I don’t have a second option. (I) come from a different time in MMA (than Bisping).”
Minotauro, also known as “Big Nog,” is the only fighter to hold titles in the UFC and now-defunct Pride Fighting Championship. Nogueira (32-5-1) won the interim heavyweight title by beating Tim Sylvia at UFC 81, but lost the belt to Frank Mir at UFC 92.
On Cain Velasquez: “He has endurance. He can fight everywhere. He can stand up. Wherever the fight goes, he knows he can fight. He pushes the fight a lot and so do I. That will make the fight very exciting. We are not as big as some heavyweights, but we can move. That is the difference between us and some of the other heavies.”
On the state of the heavyweight division: “The situation is strange because the champ (Brock Lesnar) is out for a while. Me and Cain are in good position to fight for the interim belt right now. I could see five guys (Lesnar, Shane Carwin, Frank Mir, Nogueira and Velasquez) fighting for the title right now. A lot of interesting fights can happen.”
A former All-American wrestler, Velasquez (7-0) rose quickly through the UFC ranks. However, he has feasted on one-dimensional strikers or other wrestlers. Nogueira, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and formidable boxer, is easily Velasquez’ biggest test to date.
On the state of the heavyweight division: “We will see what happens. Mir has to fight Carwin. Anything can happen. I never really think about what will happen after (this fight). All my energy is on Nogueira. He is a very dangerous fighter. He is all I’m worried about.”
On fighting Nogueira: “It’s a great thing right now to see young guys climb in with guys who have been in this sport forever and are legends. It’s a great opportunity.”