BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Pre-fight hype is a part of the game in the UFC. But spend a little time with Biloxi's Alan Belcher, and you get the feeling he truly dislikes his upcoming opponent.
Belcher is set to fight British bad boy, Michael Bisping, in a co-main event as part of UFC-159 in New Jersey this weekend.
"He always avoided me, acted like I wasn't there," said Alan "The Talent" Belcher, during an interview in his D'Iberville MMA Club.
"And then he started disrespecting me. And it's just, you know, the bad blood goes back. I usually don't get into trash talking. But when somebody comes at me like that, I have to defend myself. So, I'm ready to fight."
Belcher has been very close to a title shot before in the highly competitive middleweight class. But injuries or key losses always prevented him from taking that next big step. A win over Bisping would be "huge" says Belcher.
"The biggest challenge fighting Michael Bisping is just not hitting him at the weigh-in," said Belcher, only half joking. "Just not fighting him before the fights. If I can wait 'til the fight, then I'm going to hurt him."
MMA coach and former UFC fighter, Rich Clementi is helping train Belcher for the big showdown. He says the mental aspect of the fight game is often more important than endurance and physical fitness.
"To me, it's huge. And that's where I think I come in the best. You have different guys who are very athletic. You have guys who have been doing Brazilian ju jitsu for 20 or 30 years, their whole life. My edge was always the mental aspect of it. And it's huge and crazy," said Clementi.
"If you have a bad day at work in this business, it definitely shows. It's not like your nine to five where you can go and start over again. So, that day, your mental preparation, everything you are is shown in that moment. And how great is that? To actually see what's on someone's mind. And see it displayed in front of your eyes, to me that's amazing," said the MMA Coach and Belcher friend.
Longtime fight fans on the Mississippi Gulf Coast may recall it wasn't all that many years ago that a young slugger named Alan Belcher was making a name for himself on the casino fight circuit.
"I went to Tunica to fight for him (Clementi) The casinos there. Biloxi to fight here," Belcher recalled.
"Met my wife somewhere along the way and ended up down here. So, now the gulf coast is my home. I love it here."
Rodney Derouen recalls Belcher's early days when he participated in "Slugfest" on the Gulf Coast.
"He fought as a heavyweight and won it very impressively. Then he came back and fought at 190 and under and won it again."
Derouen is now Belcher's boxing coach.
"This will be my 14th UFC working the corner. And I'm ecstatic and excited. This is the biggest fight of our lives," said Derouen.
"Bisping has been running his mouth. We've been waiting to fight Bisping for two years. He's had excuses. And now we've got co-main event on one of the biggest shows of the year. And Alan will be impressive, I promise," said the boxing coach.
Belcher and Bisping have been verbally sparring and exchanging bizarre bets on the Internet during various blogs, videos and pre-fight chatter.
One of Belcher's NFL friends put up his $300,000 car, if Bisping knocks out the American in round one. Belcher has said if he goes down in the first, he'll tattoo a British flag on his chest, provided Bisping agrees to get a Belcher-like "Johnny Cash" tattoo if he gets laid out in round one.
"I wasn't trying to sell the fight. I was just trying to get under his skin a little bit. He said he was going to knock me out in the first round. So, I wanted to see if he would actually back it up. And he realized he took his talking a little bit too far. And he wrote a check that his butt can't cash. So, I just try and call him on it," said Belcher.
"And I saw it got under his skin a little bit. So, I just pushed it and pushed it further."
They'll settle business inside the octagon on Saturday night, April 27th.