(“The Count,” courtesy of Bisping.tv.)
Though he was impressive as a light-heavyweight — winning The Ultimate Fighter 3 after going 10-0 in England, then beating down Eric Schafer and Elvis Sinosic — two rough split-decisions convinced Michael Bisping to drop to a more competitive weight. And since then, he’s looked absolutely scary. Bisping will be looking to continue his success as a 185-pounder at UFC 89 (October 18th; Birmingham, England), where he’ll take on Chris Leben in the main event; a win would officially make the Liverpool-native a title contender. Ben Zeidler caught up with The Count recently to get his take on his next opponent, the UFC’s middleweight title picture, and that rumor about him being a future TUF coach.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: What have you done to prepare for Chris Leben?
MICHAEL BISPING: Well, obviously he’s a southpaw so we’ve been bringing in a ton of southpaws to spar with. I see a lot of problems with him, so I’ve been trying to really step up my training. You know, it’s the all-around game, the all-around training. I’m very focused.
Do you prefer to fight in England? What does it mean to be the hometown favorite every time out?
When I go out there, it’s unbelievable. I can’t even put it into words. I have great memories there, for sure, but the UFC fans are always amazing no matter where I go. The sport is so great and so awesome right now that any fans, in any arena in the world, are just great. Fighting in the UFC is very special to me.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding your UFC 75 win against Matt Hamill. Do you believe you won that fight?
You know what, I want to fight Matt again. It was really close and depending on what you’re looking for, you can make an argument either way. People say that it went my way because it was in the UK, but the UK judge is the one who gave it to Hamill. It was the Americans who gave me the decision. Hamill definitely won the first round, and that’s because I wasn’t prepared mentally. I didn’t focus. He caught me off guard and came out guns blazing. I needed to get in gear and I did. I started to take control, he got some takedowns but I got some on my own accord, and I did more damage. I won 2-1 but it was close. I should have given him more props, but we had some history going into the fight, so I wasn’t prepared. But I do think I won.
We’re talked before about the drop to 185, but now that you’ve done it a few times, is it easy to make? Do you still feel faster? Do you feel as strong?
Absolutely. It’s funny that I feel stronger at 185. My actual weight is coming down to a middleweight size so it’s easier to make that cut. I’m faster and my strength is definitely there. I’m moving weights and lifting like I used to when I was at 205. I feel way more athletic.
Assuming you beat Leben, how many more fights away from the title would you say you are?
I don’t know, it’s tough to say. Maybe one or two more fights…two more good wins against solid opponents, and I would say that I deserve it.
Is there anybody you’d particularly want to get a crack at before Anderson Silva?
Nah, no one in particular. I don’t have any problems with any of the guys in my division and I’d like to keep it that way. I want to be champion and I want to fight Anderson Silva. I think it would be a good match and if I beat Leben, keeping my fingers crossed, I can get in line for a shot. I want to fight the best.
Are you looking for a rematch with Rashad Evans?
It’s funny you asked me that, I get asked that all the time. To be honest, I know it’s my only defeat but right now I want to focus on my [middleweight] career. When I’m done with that, I’d love to fight him again. I was in the headlights last time because it was my first main event. And it was a split decision loss, so I definitely want to take that back.
What’s the story with you potentially being a coach for The Ultimate Fighter: US vs. UK?
(Long pause) I haven’t heard anything yet. To be honest, if they do that show and they need a UK coach, I think I’d be the main man for the job. I’m definitely interested in it. I love coaching and I would relish the opportunity to work with some of these guys. I love being involved in The Ultimate Fighter obviously, since it led to my own career in the UFC.
In your opinion, is there talent to be discovered in the UK?
Yeah, I’d say that there is. We have lots of grass roots talent and lots of gyms. This is a great opportunity for the UK.
What do you think the addition of Quinton Jackson and Cheick Kongo will mean for Wolfslair?
It’s awesome. It expands the level of everything. It attracts more and more people. We have a bunch of guys from the States, some of the best guys in the UK, and we even have live-in accommodations. Everyone wants to train with us and it’s raising the level of our training.
Have you trained with Quinton?
Yeah, we train together every day.
Do you think Juanito Ibarra was stealing from Rampage?
It’s not my business, so I’m not going to comment on that.
Are UFC fighters being paid fairly?
I can only talk about my own experiences. As far as I’m concerned, they pay me very comfortably. I feel like I am special to them, and like I’m in a family. It’s great money and I’m a very happy man. I can’t understand why some people complain about salaries. They sign a contract and they know what they’re getting into. If you don’t like it, go work for another company. If you have a problem, go speak to them. I’m very happy with how I am paid.
What kind of fight can people expect to see when you take on Chris Leben?
I think he’ll come out hard and you can expect the same from me. I’m gonna put on an exciting fight and get the victory.
Thanks, Mike. Any sponsors you want to thank?
Absolutely. I just signed a new big deal with Ecko and they’ve been helping me out. I’ve been very fortunate to have many great sponsors through the years. Bisping.tv is my site so check that out, find out what I’m up to, send me an email. And thanks to all the fans for getting behind me.