For a brief moment in time, Michael Bisping decided he was done with the uphill struggle against known users of performance enhancing drugs.
After losses to offenders such as Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, as well as Dan Henderson (who fought with an exemption to use testosterone replacement therapy), “The Count” made up his mind to decline fights against any prospective opponent with a similar history. That is, until a showdown with ex-middleweight champ Anderson Silva officially became a possibility.
“Initially a while ago I did say to myself I’m over it. I’m over fighting all these people that have an unfair advantage in their recovery and their training. I really am sick of it,” Bisping said during a conference call on Tuesday. “I have fallen to it several times now, with Vitor, with Chael, the list goes on... But then I started hearing rumors about the Anderson Silva fight and started to think about it... I’ve got to say regardless of what happens, he’s still Anderson Silva. It is a bucket list fight. It’s somebody that I always wanted to face, so for that reason I’m willing to forego that.”
Bisping and Silva will meet in a UFC Fight Night headliner at O2 Arena in London on Feb. 27. The card will air in its entirety on UFC Fight Pass.
Silva hasn’t competed since failing two separate drug tests in relation to UFC 183. He tested positive for two different anabolic steroids prior to the Jan. 31 event and also failed an additional post-fight test for anxiety and anti-insomnia medication as well as steroids again. After presenting a flimsy tainted-sexual-enhancement-drug plea before the Nevada Athletic Commission, Silva was suspended for one year retroactive to his fight with Nick Diaz in Las Vegas.
To this day, “The Spider” maintains that he made a mistake ingesting the Viagra knockoff. Silva’s repeated denial, which continued during the UFC Fight Night call, has Bisping in a state of disbelief.
“It blows my mind. Anderson said something about trash talk because I made a reference to Viagra on social media. To be quite frank, I’m blown away by his arrogance,” Bisping said. “How on earth do you expect me not to mention that in your last fight you tested positive for three banned substances? You expect me to not mention that? That’s very, very relevant. So of course I want him to be tested. The fact that he wants me to not mention that, to brush it under the carpet, I’m blown away by his arrogance.”
The UFC’s partnership with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is in its early stages, with Mirko Filipovic and Gleison Tibau the prominent early victims of the promotion’s beefed up drug-testing program. Always outspoken against PED use, Bisping isn’t completely confident that it will make the sport 100 percent clean.
“When you look at a lot of the fighters now, you are seeing a difference in physique -- that goes without saying. We all have seen people test positive,” he said. “It’s human nature: If these people are willing to cheat in the first place, they are going to try to continue to cheat. They are going to try to manipulate the system. At the end of the day if you take performance enhancing drugs you’re a coward.
“Just because there’s enhanced testing doesn’t change the fact you’re still gonna be a coward, and you’re still gonna try and cheat the system.”
During the media call, Silva expressed a desire to regain the championship he lost against Chris Weidman at UFC 162. He used the word “motivated” often and sounded eager to put his transgressions in the past.
For Bisping, it isn’t so easy.
“We’re all chasing a dream. All fighters have a dream a being a champion, but you’ve got to do it through hard work, determination. The fact of the matter is Anderson Silva tested positive for not one, not two, but three banned substances inside his body,” he said. “While I still respect him as a fighter, I’ve got to say I lost a lot of respect for him because of that. This fight represents me beating all of these people that want to cheat the system. I have never taken a performance enhancing drug in my life. Anyone that does should be ashamed. To call yourself a martial artist but to take PEDs is the biggest contradiction you could ever make.”