UFC middleweight Michael Bisping has never earned a UFC title shot. He's come close, to be sure, but has not had an opportunity to compete for UFC gold. That won't change in February when he faces former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in the main event at UFC Fight Night 83 in London, England.
Why Bisping hasn't is a complicated answer, but it is arguable some of it relates to how many opponents he's faced in key bouts who either had or would eventually test positive for banned substances. More on this in a minute.
As for Silva, he wasn't always the designated opponent for Bisping. It had been rumored Silva was to rematch Vitor Belfort in Brazil and Bisping was slated to take on Gegard Mousasi. But the Silva-Belfort fight never materialized, so UFC brass decided to push in a different direction. As a consequence, 'The Count' knows this is an unusually big fight of the non-titled variety.
"Well, for me, obviously, Anderson is a legend of the sport. He was the long-time middleweight champion," Bisping told the media on Tuesday's conference call. "This is a guy I've wanted to fight for a long time. Of course, I wanted to fight him when he was the champion, but this really, for me, is the biggest fight outside of a world title fight right now. Anderson is still a massive name. He's still a huge draw and I have a lot of respect for him as a fighter.
"I always wanted to test myself against him," he continued. "I knew I could beat him. For me, I'm very, very excited about this fight. When Dana [White] called me and said the opponent had changed from Gegard [Mousasi] to Anderson, I was thrilled. I always wanted to show the world that I could beat Anderson and I know I can. I get to do that in February."
If all of this sounds confident albeit unusually respectful of opposition by Bisping standards, it didn't last long. Without even really being prompted about it, Bisping launched into a tirade Silva and his positive tests related to the Brazilian's UFC 183 fight with Nick Diaz.
For the Brit who has never tested positive himself, but has fought a who's who list of opponents either using banned or controversial substances - and, as aforementioned, whose career has been affected by the prevalence of opponents using - he simply could not contain his noticeable disdain.
"And I just want to say something," Bisping notes. "Yeah, we're all chasing a dream. All fighters have a dream, a dream of being the champion. You gotta do it through hard work and determination. The fact of the matter is Anderson Silva tested positive for not one, not two, but three banned substances inside his body.
"While I respect him as a fighter, I've gotta say, I lost a lot of respect for him for that," he continues. "This fight represents me beating all of these people that want to cheat the system. I've never taken performance enhancing drugs in my life. Anybody that does should be ashamed. To call yourself a martial artist and to take performance-enhancing drugs is the biggest contradiction you could ever make. And to be honest, Anderson should be ashamed of himself."
Over a series of a total of three tests taken both before and on fight night at UFC 183, Silva tested positive for three banned substances: Drostanolone "an exogenous anabolic androgenic steroid") and both Temazepam and Oxazepam, which Silva later claimed was to help with troubling sleeping and anxiety. Silva was banned from competition for one year, dating back to January 31 of 2015.
"I feel this should be talked about more," Bisping contends. "I want to be tested throughout this camp. Come and take my blood right now. You can get me to pee in a cup every day of this fight camp and I hope that happens. I hope Anderson is tested many times because he should be tested many times because he failed a test, not once, not twice but three times."
Silva isn't merely an interesting opponent for Bisping because of what the win could mean for the UK's fighter's career. In addition, Bisping has historically noted his unwillingness to fight those whose careers have benefited from performance-enhancing drug use. As Bisping sees it this time, however, there's an exception to be made for 'The Spider'.
"I did say to myself, 'I'm sick of this. I'm over it. I'm over fighting all these people that have an unfair advantage in their recovery, in their training. I really am sick of it,'" he admits. "I thought, 'If anybody has a history with performance-enhancing drugs, then I'm not going to fight them. There's plenty of other people.' But then when I started hearing the rumors about the Anderson Silva fight, I started to think 'Would I take it or wouldn't I?'
"I've gotta say, regardless of what happened, he's still Anderson Silva," he acknowledges. "It is certainly someone I always wanted to face. So, for that reason, I'm willing to forgo that. We will meet in February."
Bisping isn't overly effusive with praise for the UFC's relatively new system of drug testing run by USADA. It's an improvement, he notes, and "you are seeing a difference in physiques. That goes without saying." Yet, Bisping basically believes if you've ever cheated, "you're a coward. Just because they're bringing in advanced testing doesn't change the fact you're still going to be a coward and you're still going to try to cheat the system."
That is perhaps why Bisping notes during Tuesday's call he is alarmed by how Silva has spent much of his time since testing positive defending himself. Silva has said previously - and reiterates as much on Tuesday's call - that he's been clean his entire career minus taking a few tainted supplements he didn't realize were tainted.
Bisping was unable to let this stand. It's not clear if Bisping would be forgiving to someone who was upfront and honest about acknowledging illicit use, but it's certainly the case that when he detects what he believes is phony equivocation, he can't conceal his rage. That's especially the case when, as he did on Tuesday, Silva noted Bisping mocked Silva's excuses for his positive tests before the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) on Twitter once the fight was announced. For the Brazilian, that didn't have to be a part of the pre-fight buildup.
For Bisping, Silva being bothered with his Twitter comments is must-mention material.
"[PED use in MMA] is something I am quite emotional about because it blows my mind," he began. "To be quite frank, I'm blown away by his arrogance. How on earth do you expect me not to mention that in your last fight, you tested positive for three banned substances? You expect me to not mention that?
"That is very, very relevant," Bisping asserts. "So, of course, I want him to be tested and you can test me. But the fact that he wants me to not mention that, brush that under the carpet, to be quite frank, I'm blown away by his arrogance."