Michael Bisping worked up a good sweat and treated the press to an impressive display of his new found speed and power during the UFC open workouts last week. If the spearhead of English MMA is anything to go by, the local fans are in for a treat in the 02 Arena at UFC 120 today.
You're looking fast and powerful on the pads, how are you feeling?
I'm feeling really good. I'm very confident. I'm definitely the fastest and most powerful I've ever been. I've been saying that a lot in interviews but I definitely am. I was hitting boxing pads the day before I came down to London and without a shadow of a doubt, I was by far the fastest I've ever been. My boxing coach is the British Olympic boxing trainer and he's trained Amir Khan and others. He said my hands are as good as any Olympian. And he doesn't give compliments easily. He's old school.
That must give you a lot of confidence so close to the fight.
Yeah it does, definitely. Predominantly this is going to be a stand up fight. If not, Mario ‘Sukata’ (Neto) has addressed the things in other domains. My wrestling's good. I don't think I need to worry about being taken down these days, I can get back up or I can handle myself on the ground. All in all I'm very confident that it's going to be a good fight.
A lot of people are talking about Akiyama's judo, but he tends to like to stand up.
He does prefer to stand up, and I'm sure he's going to do that in this fight. But he does mix it up; most fights he's had there's always a bit of judo thrown in there. If that's what he's been doing since he was a kid, then if he grabs hold of someone, he's going to instinctively go for a throw. That's what you do, you follow your instincts. I'm not overly bothered by it. I haven't really thought about it at all. I mean if he grabs me and throws me on my head then I'll feel like a fool. (laughs) But it's just like a takedown. I've got to worry about his judo, he's got to worry about my takedowns. I'm not too concerned about it. Of course we're going to clinch at some point, but I've got good foot work and I think I'll be alright.
You threw a lot of flying knees and spinning back kicks, but that's not something we see a lot of in your fights.
I always do these moves in sparring, and I always land them; spinning back fists, back kicks, flying knees and everything. But I've just been playing it safe; I haven't been doing them in fights. And I think it's time to start unleashing the beast. It's just a question of using everything I do. I've been training these moves for years, now it's time to start doing them.
You've changed your training, you've added a lot of strength and conditioning, and you've got a new Thai coach. What prompted the change?
Well obviously, the sport now has got to such a high level, that you have to train as an athlete. You have to train accordingly. All of the best guys are doing it now, and it's not something that I was doing. So, after the Wanderlei fight I started training with a gym called Strength and Performance in Stockport. They're fantastic, they've been crucial to my explosive power. So I'm very grateful to them.
Has Cheick Kongo been with you to prepare this fight?
Yeah, Kongo's been with us for about six weeks now. He's looking really good in his sparring. He's definitely very switched on; he's been much more aggressive in his sparring and all that. I think we're going to see a very, very good Cheick Kongo. Cheick Kongo mentally focused, in shape and all the rest of it is a very dangerous man to face, and I'm glad it's not me facing him on the night.
He's fighting a tall powerful boxer. That's a change for him as he always seems to be fighting wrestlers.
I feel for Cheick because by trade he's a kickboxer and he seems to have had wrestlers or ground fighters back to back all the time. And that does mess with you. Frank Mir caught him with an overhand left, probably because he was so worried about the takedown and things like that. And it does, it throws you off, I've experienced it myself. His opponent is good, like everyone in the UFC. But I'm sure he's going to be just fine.
Do you want to give us a prediction on that one?
Oh Kongo for sure, definitely. KO or TKO, it's going to be a good fight.
You know Cyrille Diabaté, you've faced him in cage kickboxing. What do you think of his fight?
Cyrille's terrific, he is a fantastic stand up fighter and his MMA skills have grown over the years and he's trained with Team Quest. So he's obviously learning what to do. He had a good debut in his first UFC fight so I'm sure he's going to go into this fight and build some momentum. I've fought him, so I know he's a great fighter. I'm sure he's going to have a very good UFC career.
There are eight UK guys on the card, and a few more Europeans. Do you think this is a sign of things to come in the UFC?
Absolutely. England has always had a steep history in boxing for hundreds of years, and we like our fights over here. The same in Europe. Once the UFC spreads and people start to accept it more... Ten years from now the sport is going to be everywhere. There's going to be a lot of European talent. You only have to look at Holland and places like that, French kickboxing. There are a lot of fantastic boxers and kick-boxers across Europe and now everyone is making the transition to MMA.
So how long until we have a European champion?
Fingers crossed next year, and he's standing right here. It's only a matter of time. We've got some of the best fighters in the world in Europe, look at Fedor, there are countless guys in Holland and now there are a lot of great guys in England. So it's only a matter of time.