Michael Bisping is fighting mad. Fortunately for him, UFC 100 is only a week away.
He's mad at his opponent, Dan Henderson. He's peeved at what he senses is a lack of respect within the fighting community. And he knows that a win over Henderson, the only man ever to simultaneously hold two major weight class titles, would force his skeptics to eat their words.
"I think Dan Henderson is an [expletive} and I'm going to knock him out," said Bisping. Bisping feels that Henderson calling him a "douche bag" in the final episode of "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 9 reality show, to him, was too personal and between that and other statements he's heard, that Henderson has crossed the lines of hyping a fight.
As he counts the days down, the line that he's focused on was hearing that Henderson, his opposing coach on TUF 9, downplay how hard he needed to work to win the fight, and he wasn't happy about Henderson claiming that Bisping's record looks so impressive because of getting lucky decisions.
"He's a two-faced [expletive]," said Bisping. "He never said anything to my face (when they were filming TUF 9).
"He disgusts me. I'm 18-1, and he said he doesn't need to train anything but cardio and he would still beat me. He's taking me way too lightly. When people piss me off, I fight a lot better."
"I don't know why people continue to underestimate me," said Bisping, who is the face of the sport in the United Kingdom. "I don't know what it is. Nobody rates me in the top 10. I think it's because I'm from the U.K., and they don't give me the credit. It baffles me."
Henderson (24-7) is currently a 9-to-4 favorite in the sports books, and has gone to a decision 17 times during his career, winning 13 of them, including an 8-1 record in split-decision finishes.
Bisping has a 3-1 record in fights that have gone the distance, with his only loss, via split decision, coming against future light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, although he does have a split-decision win over Matt Hamill that the vast majority of those watching believed he should have lost.
Evans and Hamill, the two men who gave Bisping the most trouble, came from a high level wrestling background like Henderson, but Bisping said this fight will be different because he's concentrating on fighting his own fight. In those two matches, he was so concerned with defending takedowns that he wasn't attacking as much as he should have.
Luckily for Bisping, the committee of one, UFC president Dana White, who means more than any ratings when it comes to a fighter's upward mobility, has positioned this fight as Bisping's big chance. If he beats Henderson, he would likely get the next UFC middleweight title shot at Anderson Silva. And if everything works out, that match would take place on Nov. 14 in Manchester, England, not all that far from Bisping's home in Liverpool, and would probably be the biggest MMA event ever in Europe.
Of course that's far easier said than done. Henderson held the PRIDE championships at 183 and 205 pounds when the company was sold to UFC's parent company, Zuffa, two years ago. And Henderson also is chasing a match with Silva, who beat him via second-round submission last year. Henderson won the first round of that fight and blames training incorrectly for his loss.
"In terms of a game plan, I want to knock him out," said Bisping. "He's got God awful stand-up. But he's got a very powerful right hand that everyone talks about, that hasn't KO'd anyone for a long time, and you can see it coming because he's so slow with it."
Bisping senses part of the problem causing a lack of respect is that generally, the British fighters lag behind the Americans in wrestling. Many American fighters have wrestling backgrounds from childhood, and the sport isn't offered in schools in the U.K.
"I've improved massively," said Bisping about the wrestling end, but will be facing a guy who went to the 1992 and 1996 Olympics as a Greco-Roman wrestler. "I've caught up. Rashad had a hard time taking me down, and I even took him down once. I can match up with him well in every part of the game."
Bisping left the U.K. a month ago to avoid all home-life distractions, and has been in Las Vegas, noting he's doing nothing but eating, sleeping and training. At 30, he believes he's training smarter than ever, learning lessons from his belief he had been overtraining before fights for years because of his drive to always want to work harder.
"You have to learn to listen to your body," he said. "Before, if I was so sore I could barely get out of bed and walk, I'd still go to the gym and try and go all out. Now, I may take a day off or a weekend off if my body needs it."
He's also listened to advice about weight. For years he had been told he was better off fighting as a middleweight, but still resisted the idea of dropping down.
"I was way too small for light heavyweight," he said. "But I was stubborn. When it would be brought up, I'd say that I'm still winning. I make the (185 pound) weight easy. I'm not even a big middleweight."
With his hardest physical training over, he's turning his concentration this week on getting his diet down perfectly, bringing in a nutritionist who will monitor everything he eats. Right now he's at 195 pounds, and would like to keep near that weight when he gets into the cage. In his last few fights as a middleweight, he went into the cage about 190, which would be small in the days where the state-of-the-art practice is to cut 10 to 20 pounds of mostly water in the last few days, and try to gain as much of it back by match time.
He also recognizes and expects he's the "bad guy" and will be heavily booed next week in the fight. He got a taste of it on June 20 when he was at the TUF finals in Las Vegas. Bisping beat Henderson in the TUF coaching battle, coaching three of the four finalists and both champions, James Wilks and Ross Pearson. He said he believed he took the coaching job more seriously and was more hands-on in helping his team's fighters, saying Henderson was more there for the television exposure.
He was the coach of Team U.K. in a television battle against Henderson's Team U.S. But unlike someone like Dan Hardy, who relishes the bad-guy role, Bisping doesn't want to be seen that way.
"I wasn't at all comfortable with the Team U.K. vs. Team U.S. format," he said. "I'd rather it was Team Henderson vs. Team Bisping. I don't want to alienate Americans. Fans are going to be booing me, but I hope they're cheering for me at the end."
- Michael Bisping
- Dan Henderson