Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Every Thursday, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Michael Bisping has not stepped in the octagon since November of 2017. Yet if Bisping, a former UFC middleweight champion, somehow willed himself to a miraculous return and challenged reigning champ Israel Adesanya, he has no doubt over how the fight would finish.
"Of course, I would beat him," Bisping said. "I'm a fighter. That's what we're supposed to say."
There is no potential for that Adesanya bout, as the 43-year-old Bisping is happily retired from the cage and promoting his new film, "Bisping: The Michael Bisping Story." He is also legally blind in his left eye after suffering a detached retina in a 2013 knockout loss to Vitor Belfort. In a feat that will likely never be replicated, Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) found a way to win seven of his next nine bouts after the injury.
That stretch was remarkable for both Bisping's skill level as a mixed martial artist and the manner in which he was able to use his guile to ensure he passed every eye test necessary in order to fight. Bisping's confidence comes from a place of authenticity – so when he says he'd defeat Adesanya, it certainly makes you think.
"I beat Anderson Silva when he was in his prime," Bisping said. "Izzy beat a 43-year-old Anderson Silva and it was a real close fight. A fighter should always have confidence and self-belief, so I say yes, I would win that fight. I also feel it's disrespectful. It's not fair for me to say that because we'll never have a chance to test it.
"Izzy's a great champion, he's doing incredible things, I'm a huge fan of the guy and have nothing but respect for him. The last thing I want to do is disrespect him. But when I get asked if I'm going to beat him in a fight? I'm a fighter, so of course."
Bisping's new film, which features Vin Diesel, Mickey Rourke, Georges St-Pierre, and Joe Rogan, details his struggles in MMA. It revisits a point when it appeared the brash-talking Bisping would burn out against top-tier opponents in the UFC. Viewers are also treated to his crowning moment in 2016, when he entered the Octagon at UFC 199 for a middleweight title bout against Luke Rockhold after only 17 days to prepare–and won the belt in magnificent fashion.
"The world wrote me off, no one gave me a chance of winning," Bisping said. "But I knew I could beat the guy. We'd fought one time before [in 2014]. I had a lot of eye issues. I had a cut open above my good eye in the first fight against Rockhold. When I was wiping the blood, I guess I got kicked in the head. Fair play to him, but I was very confident going into the rematch."
Sitting with his new title in the 199 post-fight press conference, basking in his glory, Bisping again got the better of Rockhold, but this time verbally.
"It was definitely 10-8 in my favor," Bisping said. "Luke's a great fighter, not so much a great talker. He was talking a lot of sh-t, and I had a field day at that press conference."
The film is unique for the manner in which Bisping reveals his fears and vulnerabilities, which serves as a stark contradiction to the macho-fueled fight world.
"You can't show any weakness when you're fighting," Bisping said. "You just can't, it's too cutthroat. If you show weakness, opponents and future opponents will jump all over you. But I'm retired now, so it was nice to finally open up and talk about all of this."
Competing with only one effective eye will forever remain an integral piece of Bisping's legacy. Although his impaired vision altered daily life, he still found a way to excel in the cage.
"I look back now and think, 'What was I thinking?'" Bisping said. "Quitting never even occurred to me. I wasn't financially set or involved in the diverse opportunities I have now, with fingers in many pies. My fingers were in one pie back then, and that was fighting.
"It was a terrible injury, but I said, 'F-ck it. I'll make my technique better. And my cardio. And my mindset will be 100 percent perfect.' I refused to quit."
If Bisping had his vision, he would still be fighting. Instead, he turned his setback into a story of pure inspiration, one he is now grateful to share.
"This is a tremendous story told in a great way," said Bisping. "It's a story about an everyman with a dream. My mistakes didn't define me. With the help of a good woman and hard work, I was able to turn my life around. It's a story that appeals to fight fans, and I hope it helps people in their lives."
Curtis Blaydes on fighting Jon Jones: 'That would be a money matchup'
Coming off an impressive victory against Jairzinho Rozenstruik this past September, the No. 4-ranked Blaydes is seeking to tighten his spot and take another step closer to a shot at the heavyweight title.
"I'm appreciative of the opportunity to be in the main event," Blaydes said. "It's my opportunity to show I'm a worthy heavyweight title contender. That's what I am aiming to prove."
The 31-year-old Blaydes would rewrite his legacy if he were to have a run with the heavyweight title, but there are other goals in mind for his immediate future. He would relish the chance to welcome Jon Jones into the heavyweight division, and that is a bout that would drastically enhance Blaydes' name recognition both in and out of the sport.
"Jon Jones, that would be a money matchup," Blaydes said. "He's a legend, he's a star. I'd take that fight for the right price."
The immediate future for Blaydes is this Saturday's bout against Daukaus, who is currently ninth in the division. And while Blaydes may have to finally solve the Derrick Lewis puzzle before he can get a title shot, he needs a win in Ohio to keep that championship dream alive.
"That's what I'm focused on," Blaydes said. "I'm envisioning five rounds of war. I always picture that, even on the nights when I get a finish. For me, it's all about effort and output, and that's what you'll see on Saturday."
The Pick 'Em Section:
Here are my picks for this Saturday's UFC card, main-evented by a heavyweight bout for the second weekend in a row:
UFC Fight Night main event: Curtis Blaydes vs. Chris Daukaus
Pick: Curtis Blaydes
UFC women's flyweight bout: Joanne Wood vs. Alexa Grasso
Pick: Alexa Grasso
UFC flyweight bout: Askar Askarov vs. Kai Kara-France
Pick: Kai Kara-France
ONE X kickboxing featherweight grand prix final: Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong vs. Chingiz Allazov
Pick: Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong
ONE X mixed rules super fight: Demetrious Johnson vs. Rodtang Jitmuangnon
Pick: Demetrious Johnson
Last week: 3-2
2022 record: 36-14