It’s not very often that both halves of a short-notice matchup view their impending bout as a win-win scenario, but that’s exactly how Michael Bisping and Kelvin Gastelum see their main event clash in Shanghai, China next weekend.
“I only feel like it’s an advantage career-wise,” Gastelum said of the shift from facing Anderson Silva to squaring off with Bisping during Wednesday’s media conference call. “Mike is obviously the former champion, he’s highly ranked and his position in the UFC is very high, so this is a great move for my career.
“He’s ranked No. 2, fresh off his title fight with (Georges St-Pierre),” he added. “I feel like this is an even better fight for my career and I expect it to be a tough fight.”
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While Gastelum sees next weekend’s contest as an opportunity to expedite his climb up the middleweight rankings and further his career, Bisping’s logic for jumping right back into the Octagon on two-weeks' notice is much more simplistic.
“I didn’t feel like I performed to the best of my ability last week, so that’s why I was keen to get back in there so quickly,” said the 38-year-old Brit. “I don’t see how I could have turned this down. I honestly think this is a win-win situation for me.
“I get to go out there, get back in the win column again, hopefully, get to put on a great fight, remind the world what I’m capable of and I get paid again, so it’s all positives from my perspective.”
Given that Bisping started the month as the middleweight champion, there is no denying that next weekend’s main event carries significant stakes in the 185-pound division.
Though he envisions a win over the recently dethroned former champion as a means to propel himself into the title conversation, Gastelum still wants to keep his options open going forward.
“I feel like if I win this fight, I might have permanently put myself in a position where I’ll be fighting for the middleweight title,” said Gastelum. “If I get to fight for the middleweight title, that’s ideal, but I also feel like if I do the right things and I’m able to make 170 safe and healthy, then I want to do it and I want to fight for that title too.
“If I want to go back down and challenge Tyron Woodley, I feel I can and if I win this fight, it puts me right there in conversations for the (middleweight) title as well. I feel it’s win-win.”
As for Bisping, taking this fight isn’t about positioning himself for another title shot or further adding to his legacy – it’s about doing what he loves to do, simple as that.
“There is no strategy to what I’m trying to achieve here,” he said of stepping in for Silva against Gastelum. “This opportunity came out of the blue – I was driving down the street, going to lunch with my wife and my in-laws and I heard it on the radio and I texted Dana straight away and the fight happened.
“There was no real design, there was no conscious effort, there was no sitting down with my management team and trying to think of how this could define my legacy – so people play the piano, some people fight and I like to fight, simple as that.
“I like to fight and I haven’t got the belt any more, so **** it – let’s fight.”