As one of the few non-Brazilian fighters on the card, the response from fans is a bit of a surprise, as "The Count" tells MMA Junkie that the locals in Sao Paulo are actually rooting against their own countryman:
I'm shocked. I'm getting a lot of respect. I'm getting a lot of people rooting for me and not Vitor, surprisingly.
With that said, I'm still expecting them to boo me on Saturday night. But a lot of people are saying to me, "F--- Vitor! Kill that motherf---er!" Seriously, I've got it on video of them chanting it at the mall yesterday. But yeah, I'm still expecting to get booed, of course.
Whatever the case, the story seems to fly in the face of typical behavior from Brazilian UFC fans.
As seen at events like UFC 134, UFC 142 and UFC 153, Brazilian fans cheer on fighters from their own country far more than anyone else. Even during post-fight interviews, the nationalism is so strong that Brazilians fighters themselves are booed if they speak in English and not Portuguese.
Then again, Bisping is one of the UFC's most famous fighters. Not only is this his first event on Brazilian soil, but he's also co-headlining the most important match on the card.
However, Bisping also notes that the card has been marked with a negative focus on Belfort, as his 35-year-old, 16-year veteran opponent recently dodged questions from ESPN's Brett Okamoto on whether or not he's using testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Bisping, to put it mildly, is less than happy about the implications:
I'll be honest: I'm very disappointed. I could be a little controversial here, but for someone who talks about honor and respect and f---ing Jesus and the Bible and all that, he's been busted for steroids in the past, he's dodging questions about TRT, and obviously he sounds like he's on it. Otherwise he'd just be answering the question.
That's disappointing. That said, I'm focused on what I'm going to do. It's going to be a tough fight, but he could be on f---ing rocket fuel for all I care. Saturday night he's in for an ass-kicking.
Should Bisping defeat Belfort on Saturday night, the Englishman will have finally earned a shot at UFC champion Anderson Silva, the man who's held the middleweight title since October 2006.
Boasting an impressive 23-4 MMA career record, Bisping has been commonly known as a perennial contender in his division, actively campaigning for a title shot for years. His match against Belfort will mark his 18th professional bout with the UFC, in addition to three exhibition bouts during Season Three of The Ultimate Fighter.