Marked man Michael Bisping is all set for his first UFC middleweight title defense back home in Manchester, UK, and all signs are pointing to a rematch with Dan Henderson in October.
Michael Bisping’s fairytale 2016 will add a third and final dramatic chapter this fall when he makes his first championship defense back home in England. And whilst every 185lb’er and his dog has thrown his hat into the ring, along with a legend or two, a rematch with the man who wiped ‘The Count’ out for the count at UFC 100 back appears to be the preferred option.
Bisping admits he’s flattered by the number of call-outs he’s received from his peers since he KO’d Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 earlier this month. But as he reviewed each potential title contender’s claims to Fighters Only, it was old foe Henderson that really sparked a reaction from the 37-year-old champion.
“I’ve been told not to say anything, but I have an opponent in mind. Somebody has been pitched and I’ve never turned anybody down. So I’m in…” he said with a smile. “But I can tell you this. It isn’t Chris Weidman, so he can shut up! Fact of the matter is, he got slaughtered by the man who I just knocked out so for him to be saying I’m scared of him and this and that, it doesn’t stack up.
“I get it. He was the champion for a while and he wants the belt back, and I respect that. But you’ve got to win fights. And while I accept he was scheduled for a title fight that was against Rockhold and that was a rematch, there isn’t a rematch against me. So win a fight like I had to. Earn it like I had too. It’s simple.
“Jacare (Souza) is another guy whose the rightful number one contender right now and if that’s the fight that comes up, well I’d love to take that fight right now. Again, nothing but respect for that guy. He’s an incredible fighter.
“As for Rockhold, well, I think he should have to go and win another fight too. In fact, I think Rockhold and Weidman should go fight each other!
“And then there’s Hendo… As everyone knows, I would love to shut that stupid old b**tard up. I owe him one.
“I respect him. Of course I do. He’s a legend of the sport. It just pisses me off that he has that logo on his shorts and stuff of me knocked out. That’s disrespectful. And of course he was on TRT at the time. So that kind of irks me a little bit, especially as he’s still fighting and yet TRT is no longer allowed. Which to me means it was bulls**t he was taking it anyway.
“But then we’ve now got GSP’s camp coming out of the woodwork wanting to fight me, and come on, that would be amazing. To beat Anderson Silva and Georges St Pierre, whilst knocking out Rockhold, wow, what a way to go out. No offense to Luke Rockhold, but I just did you! But yeah, it’s Georges St Pierre. And while that fight’s unlikely to happen, very unlikely, it would be quite the thing.”
Bisping, currently in the UK on a mainstream media tour, told FO how the Manchester Arena will host his first defense, chosen ahead of a far more lucrative option to fight at Cardiff’s currently named Principality (formerly Millennium) Stadium. And he also insists he won’t feel like he’s legitimize his reign until he marks it was at least one defense.
“Ive got to defend the belt,” he says. “Retiring now is not an option. My wife wanted me to retire the night I won the belt. And in some ways she was right when she said it would be the perfect way to end my career, going out on top. But you have to defend the belt to solidify a championship reign I believe. And where better to do that than Manchester.
“It was actually Dana’s idea to defend the belt in Manchester. And of course, I said ‘definitely.’ He actually said to me, ‘What would you prefer, Millennium Stadium or Manchester Arena?’ And I said, ‘Manchester’ no hesitation. And while I accept the Millennium Stadium is a much bigger venue, listen, I just beat Anderson in London and so to go back to defend the belt in Manchester, so close to my home town of Clitheroe, is a dream come true… no offense to Wales!”
The Manchester Arena currently has a busy October schedule with Disney on Ice, Justin Bieber and Bear Grylls among their line-up for the month. But both Saturday 8th and 29th are presently available – whilst UFC 204 is also most likely to be scheduled for the same time period.