It’s about the middleweight championship of the world. It’s about history … but more than anything else, it’s about two guys who simply don’t like each other who want to knock the other one out.
What more could you want out of a fight?
Saturday night’s main event features two legends of the sport: champion Bisping, who is tied with Georges St-Pierre for most wins inside the Octagon (19 apiece). And Henderson, a legend of the sport who has 25 wins in major MMA competition (combination of UFC / PRIDE / Strikeforce), second most of all-time.
As impressive as those figures are, put those aside for the time being. Despite both combatants protesting otherwise in the buildup, Saturday’s Pay-Per-View main event matchup is about unfiltered animosity.
Seven years later, Bisping readily admits that he’s “Embarrassed” by his performance and tries to claim it’s all in the past. But hear him talk enough, and you can tell that he still desperately wants revenge:
“I have to win this fight,” Bisping told UFC.com before arriving in Manchester. “Of course I’m the champion and I want to keep the belt, but if I lose to Dan Henderson that’ll be worse than losing it to anybody else – I don’t want to lose to Dan Henderson twice, let’s just say that.”
“Is it personal? Not really, but he wants to knock me out,” Bisping explained at Thursday’s Ultimate Media Day. “What more motivation do you need? He's going to try and knock me out on Saturday night – so I guess it is kind of personal.”
And then the clincher, at Friday night’s weigh-ins: “Who wants to see Hendo get knocked the F out? Come on make some noise! Guys, this is the pinnacle of my career, it doesn’t get any better than this. I'm the champion, defending it in Manchester. … (Expletive) Henderson. Manchester let’s (expletive) do this!”
Anybody believe Bisping isn’t extra fired up for another shot at Henderson?
Then there’s Hendo. The 46-year-old former Strikeforce and PRIDE champion was ready to walk away from the sport after defeating Hector Lombard in front of over 100 friends and family in his Southern California backyard this past June at UFC 199.
But the attraction of a UFC championship, the only belt the famed MMA star has failed to capture in his historic career, was a strong one. Getting to rematch against an old foe? That put it over the top and ensured he’d give it a final go inside the Octagon.
“I think I’m going to win,” Henderson said earlier in the week. “Hopefully I can land a big ‘H-Bomb.’ But I’m looking to win every round and making sure I punish him along the way and the judges will see it my way if it does go to a decision. But obviously the best ending is similar to the last fight.”
But just like Bisping, Henderson dropped his guard even more as the week went on and his true feelings became known.
“Whatever (Bisping) wants to tell himself is all right with me,” Henderson said. “I know what I'm capable of doing, and he's going to find out what I'm capable of on Saturday.”
Forge the numbers, forget the belt. Saturday’s main event is simply two guys who don’t like each other who want to put on a show for the sold out crowd in Manchester and those watching around the world.
You don’t want to miss it.
Jorge Mondaca is managing editor of UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JorgeAMondaca