Interview with Michael Bisping

(Image credit: Unknown)

You were a coach on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. Of the guys already eliminated from the show, who do you think has the most potential to do well in the UFC?
Louis Gaudinot and Josh Ferguson are both great fighters who are more suited to fighting at the 56kg flyweight limit than the 61kg bantamweight limit they fought at on the show. They lost their fights on TUF, but they got a lot of exposure out of it and I think they’ve both got great futures in the UFC, especially when they eventually introduce a flyweight division.

You’re fighting opposing coach Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller at the TUF 14 Finale this Saturday. What’s your biggest advantage over Mayhem going into the fight?

My boxing is way better than his, I’m tougher mentally and my all-round MMA game is better. Physically I’m bigger, stronger and faster than him too. He’s got a very good attacking ground game, but I’ve got good defence and I’ve never been submitted. I’ve been working a lot on getting back up too, so even if he gets a takedown I’ll be straight back up on my feet. I honestly believe that if I keep focused and don’t make any silly mistakes this fight is mine to lose.
He’s called you overrated. What do you make of his resume?
He’s the underdog in this fight. I’m the guy who’s been in the UFC for over half a decade. I’ve fought former world champions, legends, up-and-comers. I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve paid my dues. He’s a guy who had one fight in the UFC, got his ass kicked, and since then he’s been travelling around the world fighting journeymen. His last fight was against Kazushi Sakuraba, who was and still is a legend, but he’s a shadow of his former self. Mayhem’s biggest achievement was taking Jake Shields’s back and nearly submitting when they fought in Strikeforce, which really isn’t that much to brag about – especially considering he didn’t actually submit him and Shields has got his ass kicked several times in the UFC since then.

He’s also said that you get favourable match-ups from the UFC against guys who you can have ‘easy little kickboxing matches with’…
I’ve fought Matt Hamill, a former world champion in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, Rashad Evans, who has some of the best wrestling in MMA, and Dan Henderson, who wrestled at the Olympics. So basically he’s talking out of his asshole. I beat Dan Miller too, and he’s got much better wrestling and jiu jitsu than the Miller I’m fighting on Saturday! Mayhem’s deluding himself. If that’s what he has to do to get himself up for the fight then fair enough, but it doesn’t bode well for him this weekend.
What about the stories he’s been spreading about your coaches feeding him information from your training camp?
The guy talks out of his ass 24/7 and that was just another example of it. I’ve got a very small, close-knit camp and I know for a fact that there’s nobody who would feed him information. That’s just him trying to unsettle my camp, and I think that shows how nervous he is before the fight. To be honest, I wouldn’t give a shit if anyone was giving him information, because it’s not going to change anything on the night – I’m still going to beat the living shit out of him. He could’ve come and sat in my camp and watched me spar every session if he wanted, I wouldn’t have cared less.
Have you seen the new Ranger Up video encouraging Mayhem to ‘punch you in the face’?
I think it’s ridiculous that they’re spending their own time and money to promote me and my fight. I actually find it very flattering! I think it’s supposed to be an insult, but it’s keeping my name out there and there’s no such thing as bad press. They may be taking the mickey out of me a bit, but I’m a big boy and I can handle it and see the bigger picture. So thank you, Ranger Up!

You seem more comfortable with the fact that the American fans boo you these days. Is that fair?
Everybody wants to be a fan favourite and I’m fortunate to have that in the UK where the fans have always been fantastic, but in America it’s not so much the case. I walked out into the arena at the UFC on Fox event in California recently and thousands of people started booing. It was one of the loudest and most impressive boos I’ve ever heard in my life, so I saluted them by turning around and giving them both middle fingers. These days I enjoy being a bit of a villain and playing up to it. That said, all my experiences in America have been great and the people I’ve met have been really nice, so I’d like to think I’m more of a guy they love to hate rather than just a guy they hate.
What do you make of the current state of the UFC middleweight division and your position in it?
There was talk of Chael Sonnen getting another title shot and I was a little disappointed by that. In my opinion, Sonnen had his shot and he blew it, getting submitted and failing a steroids test. But I understand that the UFC’s a business and that a rematch between him and [current middleweight champion] Anderson Silva would make a lot of money. I thought that if I got past Mayhem I’d be fighting Mark Munoz, but it looks like he’s going to be fighting Sonnen instead for number one contender status – which I have no problem with. If I’d fought Munoz I probably would’ve had to fight Sonnen afterwards anyway to get a title shot. They’re both good wresters who pose tricky style match ups for me, so by fighting each other it means that one of them will be eliminated from the title picture, which clears the path for me.
Who do you think will win that fight and how would they do against Silva?
It’s a tough fight but I think Sonnen wins. His wrestling is more effective and Munoz still looks a little green, almost like a beginner at times, and his chin doesn’t seem to be all that. But I think Silva beats Sonnen in a rematch. Silva was carrying a rib injury going into their first fight, which had to affect him. I’d always lean towards Silva against anyone apart from me really!

How would you approach fighting Silva?

It’s easier said than done because he’s the best in the world. You’ve got to get in his face and close the distance – you can’t give him the range and space he needs to use his box of tricks. People tend to get stuck like a rabbit in headlights and let him perform. You’ve basically got to do what Sonnen did and turn it into a brawl. But that’s also dangerous because he’s got a Thai clinch that can break your nose, as Rich Franklin found out. He’s a tough nut to crack, but I want to get that shot.
For more exclusive UFC news and interviews buy the magazine, subscribe now to get five issues for £5The Ultimate Fighter finale is live on FX at 2am on Sunday 4th December.

Sam Razvi wrote for Men’s Fitness UK (which predated and then shared a website with Coach) between 2011 and 2016.