Always one to gleefully stir the pot, Michael Bisping won’t surprise anyone if a victory over longtime welterweight titleholder Georges St-Pierre later this year prompts the middleweight champion of the world to also claim that he is the linear 170-pound champ as well.
“Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that thought had crossed my mind,” he said with a laugh. “I reckon I could probably make 170 (pounds) as well with a bit of dieting, but 185 is enough for me.”
It’s good to be “The Count” these days. Fresh off a career-best year in 2016 in which he sandwiched a pair of victories over superstars Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson around a June knockout of Luke Rockhold that earned him the 185-pound crown, the 37-year-old will now prepare to welcome back GSP to the Octagon in a bout expected to take place in the second half of this year.
The clash of UFC superstars was officially announced on Wednesday, but it’s been a matchup much discussed since late last year. That’s when the rumor mill kicked into overdrive over the return of Montreal’s St-Pierre, who had been on a hiatus from the sport following his win over Johny Hendricks in November 2013.
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St-Pierre spoke of a desire to face Bisping in his return, and the Manchester native was eager to take the fight. But negotiations between the Canadian and the UFC on a new contract were slow to be finalized. In the meantime, Bisping, who had knee surgery after defeating Henderson in October, waited for his next foe.
“I was still kind of hanging out hope that it would happen because it’s a big fight,” he said. “But every time I spoke with (UFC President) Dana (White), he said ‘It ain’t gonna happen.’ So I did forget about it and I thought my next fight was going to be (No. 1 contender) Yoel Romero. And whatever fight was offered, I was gonna take.
“I thought it was going to be Yoel, and then last Friday I get a phone call out of the blue from Dana and I thought he was going to offer me Yoel Romero. But he called and said, ‘Listen, we got a deal done with GSP, do you still want to fight him?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ And he said, ‘OK, congratulations, you got the fight.’ So it kind of came out of the blue.”
And now the Superfight is set. But as with anything in the fight game there will be critics, and some wondered what happens to Romero now, and why Bisping would instead take a fight with St-Pierre.
Bisping explained his thought process in accepting a fight with GSP, making it clear that he’s got plenty of room on his dance card for Romero and the other middleweight contenders as well.
“It’s like this -- all those other fighters: Romero, Jacare, all those people, they’re not going anywhere,” Bisping said. “They’re still gonna be around. And when I’m done with GSP, and make no mistake, I will beat GSP, and I’m not retiring after I beat GSP, I will fight Yoel Romero. But if they were in my position, I know for a fact that if the UFC came to them with a big money fight against Georges St-Pierre, they would one hundred percent take that fight. So I’m doing what anybody would do.
“Why would I turn that down? This fight is gonna generate a lot of Pay-Per-View buys, it’s a fight that’s gonna put a decent amount of money in my bank account, and it’s a fight I know I can win. So it’s a win-win all around.
“I want to fight Yoel Romero, I want to fight the number one contender, and I want to retire knowing that I defended the belt against the best,” Bisping continued. “I don’t want to avoid anybody; that’s not what I’m trying to do here. The Dan Henderson fight was offered to me by the UFC, I never asked for Dan Henderson. And the GSP fight was offered to me by the UFC. So I’m just accepting it. I even said to Dana that when this GSP fight is done, I’ll make a quick turnaround.
“Georges doesn’t really have the style, I don’t think, that’s gonna hurt me. He’s kind of a jab and takedown artist. So I see myself getting out of this fight relatively unscathed and I’ll have a quick turnaround and take on Yoel Romero. So for all those people that have a problem with it, sit tight, just hold on, and don’t worry, Yoel’s gonna get his shot pretty soon.”
First there’s GSP, a lock for the Hall of Fame and one of the greatest fighters to strap on the gloves. But he is moving up 15 pounds to middleweight and is coming off more than three years away from the Octagon. That could be bad news for the Canadian icon against a fighter who is coming off three of the biggest wins of his career.
But Bisping didn’t get here by looking past his opposition, and he’s not starting now.
“You never underestimate anybody,” he said. “Georges St-Pierre is a consummate professional and he stayed in the gym, from my understanding, throughout his absence from the sport. So to underestimate him would be foolish.”
And he won’t. But if there’s one thing Bisping is expecting GSP to show up with, it’s the one thing that could be the downfall for his highly anticipated comeback.
“I think he’s going to find he’s going to have a psychological problem when he comes back because with all that time away, ring rust is a real thing,” Bisping said. “It’s more of a psychological thing than a physical thing, and I think coming back on this big stage under this big spotlight is gonna be hard. Now Georges St-Pierre is a guy that’s used to that and he’ll handle that much better than somebody else, but even still, I do see that being a big factor, and I’m on a roll.
“I’ve got momentum on my side, I’ve got confidence on my side, and I see myself winning this fight.”