USA TODAY: Bisping, Belcher ratchet up feud before UFC 159


alan-belcher-13.jpgOne year ago, middleweights Alan Belcher and Michael Bisping were considered two of the best 185-pound fighters in the UFC. After Saturday night, one of them will be further away from title contention than at almost any point in his career.

“You’re only as good as your last fight, and my last fight was a loss,” Bisping said. “I don’t take that too well, you know? I want to win fights. I’m a natural competitor. And, you know, a win over Alan Belcher puts me back in the win column.

“As I say, I get redemption for my last fight. It’s a win over a top 10 opponent.”

Bisping (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) and Belcher (18-7 MMA, 9-5 UFC) meet in the co-headliner of Saturday’s “UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen” event at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The main card airs on pay-per-view (10 p.m. ET) after prelims on FX (8).

Bisping is widely considered the best MMA fighter England has produced. As the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter 3,” he has been a perennial UFC middleweight contender. Yet each time “The Count” has stood on the cusp of a title shot, he has fallen short, as he did in January with a TKO loss to Vitor Belfort.

Belcher, meanwhile, has battled through numerous injuries the last few years and finally seemed primed to break out. But a December loss to Yushin Okami ended his four-fight winning streak.

“We’re both coming off losses,” Belcher said. “We both have losses in our career, wins in our career, and now we’re going to see who the best is out of us two.”

Surprisingly, UFC 159's headlining matchup between light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and outspoken challenger Chael Sonnen has proved largely void of emotion.

That’s not the case in the co-feature. Bisping and Belcher have lobbed verbal jabs at each other for years.

Belcher suggested the tension, which has boiled over in recent weeks, would fuel his performance.

“It is emotional for me, and that’s when I perform at my highest,” Belcher said. “I have the most pressure on me. I’mthe most nervous for this fight ever. The only fights that I’ve ever lost are the fights that I wasn’t very excited for.”

That won’t be the case Saturday. Neither fighter can afford consecutive losses in the UFC’s increasingly talent-rich middleweight division, especially when both have a shot at division kingpin and longtime champion Anderson Silva as their ultimate goal. One only has to listen to Bisping to know what the contest means for both fighters.

“A win over me for Alan Belcher would be by far the biggest win of his pathetic career,” Bisping said. “I ain’t going to lose to you, man. It’s in the bag. It’s a formality. I’ve just got to show up, slap your little, take my check and go home.”

For more on UFC 159, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

(Pictured: Alan Belcher)

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