Despite the fact that former UFC champion Vitor Belfort is walking into this weekend's card as the hometown favorite in Brazil, he's the real villain of UFC on FX 7.
At least, that's what Michael Bisping has been telling the press all month.
And maybe he's right.
If you look at the situation critically, Belfort just might be the real bad guy in this title eliminator fight.
Although Bisping says that he's merely hyping the fight and has "nothing but respect" for his opponent, he's pointedly called Belfort everything from a "cheater" (via SporTV) to a "two-faced" phony (via Yahoo).
Frankly, that kind of trash talk should hit a little close to home for the Brazilian.
After all, unlike Bisping, Belfort has cheated on his way up to the top, both intentionally and unintentionally.
In most video packages and highlight reels, "The Phenom" is hailed as a UFC legend who's been part of the mixed martial arts scene since he was 19 years old.
But what's almost never mentioned is how he fluked his way into a temporary championship reign by accidentally slicing Randy Couture's eye at UFC 46 in a match that should've been ruled a "no contest."
What you also don't hear from the commentary team is how Belfort subsequently tested positive for steroids (via MMAWeekly.com) and ran away to London after losing to Dan Henderson at Pride 32.
Or maybe if you look closely, you'll see more recent fights with Rich Franklin and Yoshihiro Akiyama—two men Belfort defeated with swarming (and illegal) back-of-the-head punches.
He's never tested positive for drugs or high testosterone.
Bisping's also never ended a fight with illegal strikes.
Compared to the Englishman, whose most egregious mishap was hitting Jorge Rivera with an illegal knee in their UFC 137 match, Belfort practically looks like the Devil.
It's not just Belfort's history that's against him, but also his attitude.
Maybe he doesn't look scared enough to start a scuffle with Bisping at the UFC on FX 7 pre-fight press conference, but questions from ESPN about boosting his muscles on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) seemed to rattle him plenty.
I was disappointed Vitor Belfort started talking in tongues when asked about TRT recently. He had a little more to say on Monday when he was asked directly about my concerns that all his recent UFC fights were won by illegal punches to the back of the head. In between lengthy references to the New Testament, Belfort basically said he doesn’t care if he hits opponents behind the head.
Can't argue with that.
Again, it's hard to call anyone who fights for a living a "coward"—stepping into this kind of sport takes a certain level of guts and courage.
But even fellow like Brazilians Anderson Silva and Wanderlei Silva have called Belfort just that (both here and here, via Bloody Elbow and Cage Potato), stating that his courage fades through most fights.
With that context, it's hard to defend him from any sort of moral high ground.
Besides, the UFC has lately gotten into the habit of giving popular fighters like Nick Diaz, Chael Sonnen and Frankie Edgar title shots, even though they're coming off losses
In contrast, Bisping's battle to earn his fair chance at the UFC Middleweight Championship is much more sympathetic.
Maybe "The Count" won't be the most popular fighter in the house when he steps into the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo on Saturday. But all trash-talking and jokes aside, Bisping's definitely not the bad guy.