Fighters, fans, and pundits alike have criticized Michael Bisping for putting his UFC middleweight title on the line against Georges St-Pierre, claiming he is ducking the true challengers to his belt. He, however, says that he was more than willing to fight the top contender, but he didn't have that option.
The criticism leveled at Bisping centers primarily on the fact that he has yet to defend the middleweight strap against a top ranked contender, and that's fair, although it's hard to argue that the fight with St-Pierre will lead to a bigger payday than any other as Bisping nears the end of his career.
While Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold to capture the title in June of 2016, he has defended it only once. He got the better of former Pride champion Dan Henderson with a five-round unanimous decision in October, but has since been on the sidelines.
A few months later, Bisping had agreed to put his belt on the line against a returning St-Pierre, the UFC's former welterweight kingpin. After several false starts, UFC president Dana White pulled that fight off the table. While Bisping was then treating an aggravating injury, the UFC put together an interim middleweight title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker.
Bisping claims that, with the St-Pierre fight off the table at that point, he had agreed to fight the winner of Romero vs. Whittaker, contradicting his critics that he lacked the will to face a top contender.
“There’s a lot of people out there that like to talk (expletive) and say that, ‘He’s dodging the No. 1 contender,’ and all of this,” Bisping said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. “(But) prior to Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero fighting, I had a quick meeting with Dana White in the backroom of the MGM, or wherever the (expletive), the T-Mobile Arena, and I agreed to coach The Ultimate Fighter against whoever won that fight. So in essence, I accepted a fight with Yoel and I accepted a fight with Robert Whittaker.”
Had things went as planned in that backstage meeting with White, Bisping would have been coaching opposite Whittaker on The Ultimate Fighter right now instead of training for St-Pierre. Bisping is currently slated to fight St-Pierre in the UFC 217 headliner on Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden.
“I just want to throw that out there for all those people out there who like to talk smack. And it was Robert Whittaker that said he needed some time, he didn’t want to fight. Obviously a fight with Yoel doesn’t make sense because Yoel just lost,” Bisping recounted.
“But it’s funny how things happen, because that actually gave the GSP thing an ability to happen. Because (Romero vs. Whittaker) happened on a Saturday, we were supposed to start coaching The Ultimate Fighter on the Tuesday. So, if Whittaker hadn’t turned it down, the fight (with St-Pierre) never would’ve happened.”
And with that, St-Pierre will return from a four-year sabbatical to challenge for the UFC middleweight championship.