UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping spoke to Ariel Helwani recently about his division’s #1 contender, Yoel Romero, his own desire to fight in a landmark event as well as the return of the former welterweight champion, Georges St-Pierre.
Michael Bisping’s reign as the UFC’s middleweight champion has been an odd one, for some. As a long-time veteran of the sport, he always seemed to fall short of getting himself a title shot and as he reached his tenth year within the promotion, he boasted a respectable, but unspectacular 17-7 record.
At 36, Bisping’s prime years were seemingly behind him and when the UFC booked him to face the formerly dominant middleweight champ Anderson Silva in February of last year, many had dismissed it as a ‘fun-fight’ and nothing more. I doubt anyone could have foreseen the ripple effect that his unanimous decision win on the night would end up having not only on his own career but on the very landscape of the UFC as we knew it.
With that win, Bisping found himself pegged as a short-notice replacement for the injured Chris Weidman to face then-champion Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, and though the highly-skilled and well-rounded Rockhold was marked as the clear favourite, ‘The Count’ defied all expectations and KO’d the admittedly over-confident champion in the first round. The MMA world was stunned into silence and Bisping, after a career where the highest levels of success always seemed just out of reach, found himself standing in that octagon as the UFC’s new middleweight champion.
Destiny is a word that is thrown around a lot in sports but you could see it in Bisping’s eyes that he truly believed that his entire life’s work was about to be expressed in that fight with Rockhold, and though it was perhaps a lucky punch or a consequence of his opponent’s somewhat blasé attitude, you can’t take anything away from the Englishman for the way it turned out.
With one successful title defense under his belt, Bisping spoke to Ariel Helwani on this week’s edition of The MMA Hour about his desire to get himself a big-money fight and a place on a landmark event before he retires.
“I’ve always been happy with the amount of money I’ve been getting paid. But, now I see we’re in a new age of UFC and I see gigantic paydays going around that I have never been a part of. And I’ve done well, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done very well, but I see a lot of other people making a lot more money. And that does piss me off a little bit.
“I just would like to be a part of one of the gigantic cards before I retire. That’s all, just so I can get a big gigantic payday I can retire on. Could I retire now? No I can’t. UFC has paid me well and I have no qualms. I’ve always signed contracts and at the time I’ve always been happy signing those contracts. But I see Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor getting $3 million guaranteed plus pay-per-view (PPV), so that’s a $10 million payday. I’ve never had a $10 million payday. I’ve never had a $1 million payday.
“So, yeah, of course, that’s why I want the money fights, who doesn’t? I’ve done this my entire life, dedicated myself to this sport, you have to earn it and I feel like I’ve earned it. I’m the world champion, I want to be a part of the biggest fights. That said, it’s a business, you create your own hype and people tune in.”
When pushed on the subject of his next opponent – who is widely speculated to be the #1 ranked Yoel Romero, Bisping again seemed to be dismissive of the Cuban’s claim, citing his poor drawing power as one of the main reasons for his lack of interest and furthermore, put forth the idea of a 185lb title-bout with Georges St-Pierre – who according to ‘The Count’ – is closer to returning than you would think.
“Why would I fight GSP over Yoel Romero? Because it would perhaps do five, six, seven times the business that a fight with Yoel would. Georges St-Pierre was the biggest star in the company. Yoel Romero has 24k Twitter followers, how many do you have Ariel? Twenty times that and you don’t even fight! Look, he’s a tough son of b*tch, but no-one gives a fuck.
“His [GSP’s] trainer told me recently that they are pretty much at an agreement with the UFC, so the deal’s almost done. And, he wants to fight me. I am the fighter they are targeting. So it is not outside the realms of possibility. Right now, I will assume that Yoel is my next opponent, but there is always that wild card.
“If the UFC were to come to me with GSP, then I think I would take that one first, simply for the gigantic payday.”
Georges St-Pierre famously stepped away from the sport in 2013 and ever since then, there have been serious doubts over whether or not he would even come out of his self-imposed hiatus to compete again.
Apparently, if reports are to be believed, the problems found in the negotiations between St-Pierre and the UFC stem from the promotion’s insistence that all of their athletes wear the mandatory Reebok fight kits that do not allow outside sponsorship and all of the monetary gains that come with them. GSP, who has a lucrative deal already with Under Armour, has supposedly seen this new rule as a step too far and one that would not be in any way financially viable for him.
It’s hard to know exactly what the future holds for Georges St-Pierre but after a career as truly magnificent as his, he will go down as one of the true greats of the sport no matter what he does in the coming years and if he does indeed face off with Bisping in his comeback, it will be a spectacle well worth tuning in to.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena