"A fight against St-Pierre would be amazing" - Michael Bisping
There's a new found, confident swagger to Michael Bisping these days. The UFC Middleweight Champion takes his seat across from Esquire Middle East just days after beating MMA legend Dan Henderson in his first title defense, and seems totally at ease.
The 37-year-old British fighter is in Dubai to offically open the new UFC Gym Middle East, and having come off one of the biggest fights of his career, in front of his hometown crowd in Manchester, his spirits are unsurprisingly on up.
Placing the huge UFC belt down next to him, the British fighter smiles and apologises for not removing an even bigger pair of dark sunglasses from his face...
ESQ: How are you feeling?
MB: Yeah, I'm fine. A little banged up, but fine.
[Bisping half takes-off his glasses to show us a heavily bruised eye where stitches have been recently removed]
Ouch. On that note, a good place to start is by congratulating you on your recent title defence. It must have been pretty special to get revenge on Henderson in front of your home fans?
Well, to be honest, it wasn’t really about revenge. That first fight was seven years ago, it is what it is. A lot has changed since then. Yes, of course it was nice to get a victory back, but it’s not like I was hell-bent on getting revenge. Being at home meant a lot to me, to have my first title defence in Manchester. Being the first British champion and being able to defend it for the first time in England truly meant the world to me.
Tell us about the crowd, could you hear them during rounds?
For sure, the crowd was absolutely deafening. Oh my word, it was insane! At one point I felt like saying "Guys, I appreciate the passion but please just bring it down a notch, I’m trying to focus here and you’re really distracting me!" But it was awesome, the crowd was amazing, they were chanting and singing constantly. I’m telling you the noise was deafening, I’ll never forget the experience.
There are rumours your next title defence will be against Chris Weidman?
Chris Weidman, possibly. If he beats Yoel Romero. There’s no shortage of contenders. I’d like to fight Weidman, we’ve kind of gone back-and-forth in the media, however there might be something else in the pipeline as well, which I can’t talk about.
As a match up what do you think of Weidman and his style?
I think I would beat him, obviously. He’s a large guy and also a good wrestler with respectable Jiu Jitsu and grappling skills, but I think he’s slow on the feet. He’s a big, strong and tough son-of-a-bitch, so he’s no walk in the park, but I think I’m too fast for the guy.
There’s plenty of chat about George St-Pierre coming back. Businesswise, I’m assuming you’d prefer to fight him rather than Weidman?
Oh yeah! GSP, one million percent. Fingers' crossed that fight gets done.
What’s your recovery from a fight usually like? Is it active or do you just veg out on the couch?
Well every fight is different. The Hendo fight I just had went five rounds. I had a lot of stiches in my face and my legs still sore now. Really, I just take it easy, I don’t do anything in particular. I’ve been icing my leg a lot and had the stiches in my face taken out. I just like to go home and be with my family, like a normal human being. It’s kind of crazy, you have all the hype leading up to a fight, all the madness, all the media, all the training and then when it’s all over, I’m back on the school run, it’s a weird transition but I love it.
If you could fight anyone retired or current who would it be?
Right now, it would be George St-Pierre. That would be amazing. Businesswise it would be good for me as well, the Pay-Per-View payoff would be great. Who knows, I’ve offered to fight him and he said he would, but we’ll see.
I’ve heard he’s a free agent at the moment...
Well exactly, I don’t know what he’s playing at.
So at 37, you're the first British UFC champ, and you've defended the title infront of your home fans. Does it get better than that?
To be honest, it doesn’t get any better than that. Where the fight was in Manchester is not far from my home town. All of my family were at the event and a lot of childhood friends. The arena was packed, it sold out in six minutes! All-in-all it was an epic fight. I could retire now a very happy man. I’ve achieved everything I wanted to. Financially though, I think I’ll have to take a few more fights before I call it a day and then find something else to do with my life.