Michael Bisping wasn’t interested in taking time to lick his wounds after losing the middleweight championship to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 217.
So when the word arrived that Kelvin Gastelum needed an opponent at UFC Fight Night 122 after Anderson Silva failed a USADA drug test, “The Count” jumped at the opportunity.
“It takes a little bit of the pressure of you. Obviously I had the belt. Now it’s not maintaining the championship, it’s about going out and having a good fight,” Bisping said during a recent media call. “I didn’t feel like I fought to the best of my ability [at UFC 217], so that’s why I’m getting back in there so quickly. I’ve done this my entire life. I’ve been a martial artist since I was eight years old.
“But realistically, I don’t see how I could have turned this down. I honestly think this is a win-win situation for me. I get to go out there and get back in the win column. Put on a great fight, remind the world what I’m capable of and I get paid again. It’s all positive from my perspective.”
Bisping’s 185-pound title reign came to an end when he was dropped by a St. Pierre left hook and then choked unconscious in the third round at Madison Square Garden in New York. The 38-year-old Englishman disputed the notion that it might not be the best idea to return to the Octagon after such a difficult loss.
“I’m cleared medically,” he said. “Obviously [at UFC 217] it didn’t go my way. I’d like to get straight back on the horse and get back in the win column. Physically, I’m totally fine. But mentally of course I’m a little bit down. I want to rectify that and exorcise my demons. The best way to do that — I’m a professional fighter — is get back in the ring and fight.”
Bisping’s title winning victory over Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 was the capstone to a long and decorated career in the Las Vegas-based promotion. His tenure has included wins over the likes of Dan Henderson, Anderson Silva, Thales Leites, Cung Le, Brian Stann, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Chris Leben and Matt Hamill, to name a few. However, there was no thought of enhancing that legacy by stepping in to save the UFC’s first-ever event in mainland China.
“There was no real desire, there was no conscious effort, I wasn’t sitting down with my management team and trying to think of how this could define my legacy.…I like to fight and I haven’t got the belt anymore,” Bisping said. So f—k it, let’s fight.
“The UFC is in a hard position, but I’m doing it for me. I don’t fight for anybody else,” he added. “I don’t do it for anyone but my family and me. Of course, Kelvin needed an opponent. But I’m not doing it for Kelvin, I’m doing it for me, my wife and kids. That’s about it really.”
A few months ago, Bisping never thought he’d be squaring off against Gastelum in the Octagon because “The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner wasn’t on the short list of title contenders at 185 pounds. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t aware of his opponent.
“Obviously I’m a fan of the UFC. I watch all the fights. I work as an analyst as well. Kelvin’s someone I’ve seen from ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and he’s doing great things,” Bisping said. “Of course he’s struggled making weight at welterweight. He moved up to middleweight and he looked even better. He made short work of some of some opponents that’s given me trouble in the past. I’ve always had my eye on him.
“When I was champion, he’s not someone I thought I’d be fighting anytime soon. Far from it. But of course, he was making a lot of noise and here we are.”