This is number thirty in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature, TUF 3 light heavyweight champ and UFC middleweight veteran, Michael Bisping. The popular Brit has been on the brink of a title fight several times, but his next challenge will be fellow contender, Alan Belcher, at UFC 159 in April. Bisping is also well known for some of his fiery rhetoric, and he absolutely does not disappoint here.
Please enjoy our conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts when you were young, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
Michael Bisping: My first experience was watching martial arts as a kid. And I followed my older brother to the Japanese Jujitsu club. I was always a boisterous kid, and at the end of training we would put on the shin pads and boxing gloves and do some sparring. That was my favorite part, and I just loved it. I eventually was the youngest person in England to get my black belt in Japanese Jujitsu, at fifteen. They didn’t believe in giving kids a black belt, but I had proven myself.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, and how prepared do you feel that you were at the time?
MB: Looking back, I wasn’t prepared at all. I had done a lot of kickboxing and other martial arts. I had even competed in Knockdown Sport Budo back in 1994. We didn’t know it was MMA at the time, but it was. It was bare-knuckles and I was fighting grown men. So in 2004, when I decided to go pro, I really had only trained specifically for MMA for about three months before my first fight. So I was very much a novice.
JB: I could easily do an interview with you solely about your coaching stints on TUF and your experience as a competitor. I enjoyed them all. But I'm most curious about your experience on TUF 3, the infamous Shamrock vs. Ortiz season. Looking back, how do you think that initial UFC experience influenced the rest of your career to this point?
MB: That was everything. That’s where I wanted to be from day one. I wanted to go right to the top and be champion. When I went on TUF, it was all right there. I wasn’t there to get on TV. I was there to win. It made me hungrier than ever, seeing Dana White and the posters of all the legends. I wanted to be one of those guys.
JB: You were the TUF 3 champion and entered the UFC as a light heavyweight. You went 4-0 in the UFC, and 14-0 overall, before facing Rashad Evans at UFC 78. What contributed to your early success, and how did you react to that first loss?
MB: What contributed most to my early success was my natural fighting instinct. I was always a fighter as a kid. I got in a lot of trouble and it became my true identity. I never backed down. It gave me the mental edge over everybody and it certainly worked for a long time. Of course, as time went on, and the level of competition got better, I eventually only got so far. The Rashad fight was a very close fight, but I wasn’t properly prepared. Whatever, I thought about it afterward, and while everybody else had been cutting weight before the fights, I had been eating Chinese food and drinking 7-Up on Friday morning. I never cut weight for 205. I’d just walk on the scales how I was that day. Then the night before 78, I was driving around, stressed about getting tickets for everybody, friends and family, and I saw a sign for Burger King. I got a triple Whopper with cheese and bacon, a large fries, and a large 7-Up. I stuffed it all down, and as I was slurping the last bit of 7-Up, and it made that sound a straw makes in an empty cup, I thought, “What have I done?” So that was the last of eating like that and fighting at 205 and the last of having to get tickets for everyone too!
JB: After UFC 78, you dropped down to middleweight and have been a very successful 9-4. How was that initial transition to middleweight and how is it for you now continuing to compete at that weight?
MB: Initially I was doing it all wrong. For that first fight I checked my weight the day before weighing-in and I was 186. I had dieted too much. If I was doing things how I do them now, I could have fought at welterweight the next day. For McCarthy, Day, Leben, Henderson, I was far too small. I was undersized and losing power. After the Henderson loss, I realized that I had been malnourished and overtraining. Now I don’t get under 200 pounds until the week of the fight. When Burt weighs me in on Tuesday, I try to be about 199, 200.
JB: Of your 13 fights at middleweight, what do you feel has been your most complete performance thus far and why?
MB: That’s a good question. I’m not sure. I’ll be honest. I haven’t fought to the best of my abilities yet. There are a lot of things I haven’t done yet in the UFC that I’ve always done in training. In my next fights, I’m going back to how I used to fight. I’m going to do spinning back-kicks. I haven’t been doing spinning back-kicks in the UFC. And I don’t give a f--- if you put that in the interview. I’m going to kick Alan Belcher’s ass no matter what he does.
One of my favorite fights was the Denis Kang fight because coming off the Henderson loss, everyone, the press and the fans, said I was finished and couldn’t come back after a knockout like that. Denis Kang was a tough fighter at the time, a great fighter from PRIDE. It was a good fight, and winning it was very emotional. There was a lot riding on that fight.
JB: On April 27th, at UFC 159 in New Jersey, you are scheduled to fight Alan Belcher. What do you think of the matchup and what Belcher has to offer as an opponent?
MB: I think it’s a great matchup. Alan Belcher’s been calling me out for years. I used to feel sorry for him really. I had nothing against the guy, just thought he was a bit of an idiot. Now with some of the things he’s saying, he’s upping the ante and pissing me off. He thinks he’s some great Thai boxer because he walks around in Thai shorts and he went to Phuket. I went to Thailand for three months, but I don’t go around talking about it all the time. He’s got decent Jiu-jitsu, but I don’t see his knockout power. He’s a middleweight so he should be capable of it, but I don’t see it. His Thai boxing is mediocre, at best. No doubt, he’s strong, but I’m better than him in all areas. If I lose, there is something seriously wrong. I’ve told my coaches that if I don’t win, you’re all f---ing fired because you’re doing something wrong.
JB: You are one of the top middleweights in the world right now. Who are some of the other middleweights that you respect or admire, and who are some of the ones that you want to fight or rematch?
MB: Obviously, I have the utmost admiration for Anderson Silva. He’s proven time and time again that he’s the best. I’m a big fan of Anderson Silva, his fighting style as well as him as a person. I’ve met him a few times, and he’s a good guy. But he’s also the guy I’d most like to fight as well. It would be a travesty if when I retire, I’ve never fought him. I’ve been close a few times. But that’s nobody’s fault but mine. It’s nobody’s fault but mine and some TRT and some clever doctors.
I’d like to rematch everyone I ever lost to. I’d like to fight Wanderlei again after that bullshit victory he had against me. I’d like to fight Chael again. Even he said I won that fight. I’d fight Rashad. I’d fight Henderson again too. He beat me fair and square, but I still want to fight him again. Obviously I can’t do anything without that fight coming up, seeing pictures of it on message boards. And, of course, I’d like another fight with the Bible-bashing Vitor Belfort, Vitor the boring bastard Belfort.
JB: You've been very successful thus far. Who are the individuals that continue to support you personally or professionally to help you achieve your success?
MB: Certainly my family has always been very supportive and my girlfriend, Rebecca. My dad used to drive me all over the country to martial arts tournaments when I was a kid. He did that, and it was a great personal sacrifice for him in his own life. So big shout out to my dad. Now, Paradigm Sports Management has done a great job of looking out for me and helping me with everything since being in the states. MMA Elite, though they’re a sponsor, they’ve been like a family to me. They sponsor me, sure, but it’s more than that.
JB: Last question, Michael, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
MB: A fighter is who I am, who I’ve been ever since I was a kid. I always did well in school, but didn’t really apply myself, and when it was done, I was jealous of everyone who had a direction. I worked in a few dead-end jobs, and then I thought about it and decided I was going to be a professional fighter. Everyone thought I was crazy. My friends and people laughed behind my back. Most people had never even heard of MMA then. But I didn’t care. I always prided myself on being a fighter and I had been proving that ever since I was kid at school. It’s in my DNA, my make-up. And thanks to fighting I have a very good life now, and my family has a good life, and it’s an enjoyable way to live. I might have a few less brain cells, but it’s been worth it.
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