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Now, UFC 199 just needs to live up to the talk

Middleweight Michael Bisping gestures during a weigh-in on Apr. 15, 2014 for a fight against Tim Kennedy.

Middleweight Michael Bisping gestures during a weigh-in on Apr. 15, 2014 for a fight against Tim Kennedy.

(Jacques Boissinot / Associated Press)

Belts will be on the line Saturday night at UFC 199, and so will pride.

Which matters more to the participants was uncertain Thursday when Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion Luke Rockhold and his challenger Michael Bisping, along with bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and his fierce rival Urijah Faber exchanged words at their news conference at the Forum.

Rockhold, in his first title defense since winning the belt in December, will have a rematch with Bisping from a 2014 fight the champion ended in the second round with a head kick and follow-up submission.

Cruz, after recapturing his belt in January, will settle a trilogy with Faber that dates to 2007.

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“It’s been my time for a long time,” said Faber, 37, who won the World Extreme Cagefighting title by submitting Cruz in 2007, but has lost three bouts for an outright or interim UFC belt. “This is the best I’ve ever felt. All things are firing correctly. If you look at my last fight with Dominick [in 2011], I beat him up.”

Faber admitted the emotions driving him to win will be difficult to dismiss when entering the octagon.

“I always have high energy, but I have more edge on this one. I’m going to smack this guy around,” Faber said.

“He’s going to miss a lot,” Cruz (21-1) countered. “I beat you for a reason. I beat you unanimously. You’re completely delusional. You don’t talk about the things you do wrong, you only talk about the things you do right. You have excuses for the things you’re not good at. You have nothing but excuses, and you’ll have more excuses after I beat you.”

When Faber mentioned Cruz was sidelined by knee and groin injuries and missed nearly four years of action and hasn’t fought opponents like Faber has, including former champions Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, Cruz answered, “Who cares? The belt is why we fight. The belt is the pinnacle of the division. You haven’t gotten near it. You’ve lost every time.”

Bisping reported he’d learned from an unidentified source close to the UFC that Rockhold bypassed the highest-ranked possible contender, Brazil’s muscular Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, in favor of choosing Bisping, 37, as his opponent.

“It turns out he’s a liar … he turned down Jacare,” said Bisping, seeking to become the first UFC champion from England after defeating former long-reigning champion Anderson Silva in February and accepting his first title shot on short notice after Rockhold’s scheduled foe Chris Weidman suffered a neck injury.

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Rockhold denied the charge.

When Rockhold discussed his fighting mentality – “When you believe it, you achieve it” – the quick-witted Bisping struck.

“Sounds like a salt-and-pepper ad. … Believe it, buddy, dreams do come true. You’re talking like you’re a dominant champion,” Bisping said. “You just won the belt. This is your first defense. It’s not like you’re Anderson Silva, who I just beat, by the way.”

Said Rockhold: “I’ll show you and the world I’m that much better than you and Anderson. You’re just an average bloke. I’m a … samurai.”

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UFC President Dana White told reporters after the heated exchanges, “I knew this would be good.”

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