Gegard Mousasi spent over a decade in the fight game allowing his words to take a backseat and his actions to do his talking. But Mousasi isn't taking that approach anymore.
The 31-year-old veteran has grown more outspoken than ever before over the past year, and nowhere was his new ‘don't give a damn' style more apparent than in the aftermath of his dominant victory over Vitor Belfort at UFC 204, when Mousasi made it clear that he didn't think much of UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping's narrow victory over Dan Henderson.
"I'm just being honest," Mousasi explained recently on The MMA Hour. "People ask me questions, they ask me if I can beat Michael Bisping. Of course I can beat Michael Bisping. I used to say, ‘yes, Michael Bisping is great, I would love to fight him, he's a great fighter, blah, blah, blah.' All that respectful sh*t don't work, you know? Michael Bisping is a good fighter but he's also a good trash talker and is probably making double what I am making, even more probably now that he's champion. Not because he's a better fighter than me. I believe I'm a better fighter than him and I think my record and everything has proven that.
"I fought Dan Henderson, you saw how I beat him. And even at this age, Michael Bisping went five rounds with him. If I would fight Michael Bisping, I would be the favorite. Everybody knows that."
Mousasi (40-6-2) has long been one of the most underrated fighters in mixed martial arts. A former two-division DREAM champion and Strikeforce light heavyweight titleholder, Mousasi defeated a slew of big names in various divisions prior to signing to the UFC, with scalps from heavy hitters like Mark Hunt, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Ovince Saint Preux, Hector Lombard and many others lining his résumé.
And while Mousasi initially struggled upon reaching the Octagon in 2014, he has since rebounded to win five of his last six fights, giving real merit to his complaints about be overlooked by fans and pundits.
"I wasn't even in the top-10 on Sherdog," Mousasi said. "They just recently, a couple weeks [ago], put me at No. 10. I don't know. And then I was at No. 9 in the UFC. I said, ‘I'm No. 5.' And I beat Vitor Belfort and now they put me at No. 5. I don't know, sometimes I have to tell people how things work, you know? I don't know. They're reporters, they don't know anything about fighting probably."
Luckily for Mousasi, in part due of his recent success and in part due to his willingness to be more vocal, the Dutchman now finds himself riding some the best momentum of his UFC career.
His victory over Belfort propelled him inches away from title contention, and with only two fights left on his UFC contract, Mousasi knows the time is now to make a move toward climbing the final few rungs of the middleweight ladder.
That climb continues on Nov. 19 at UFC Fight Night 99 when Mousasi takes on Uriah Hall in a rematch of a Sept. 2015 contest that Mousasi lost via highlight-reel knockout. Mousasi has been adamant in his belief that the loss was a fluke, and although he challenged Anderson Silva in the aftermath of UFC 204, the opportunity to exact sweet revenge on Hall is nearly as good.
"Anderson is not going to fight me," Mousasi said. "He's not going to risk it because I don't have that big of a name, so he's not going to risk that. It's about making money, I think, for Anderson. I don't know if he's going to sell a lot more pay-per-views fighting me [than] fighting GSP. And he's 41, he doesn't need to prove himself. He's just looking for those special fights. It's not like he wants to be a contender and go for the title again, so he's in different position.
"Even Vitor Belfort, he took that fight (at UFC 204) because he was in that position to take the fight. Because before, he was going for the title, he didn't want to have anything to do with me. He said, ‘Mousasi has to earn his way to fight me.' But after two losses, the other guys were all booked, he fought them already, so he didn't have a choice. He asked UFC to fight me. It wasn't like I just asked and they gave it to me. No, he asked for me and that's why they gave him the fight. Otherwise, they still would give me some Mickey Mouse fight, you know?"
While Hall may not be a big-name opponent, Mousasi simply wanted to keep his momentum rolling while each of the top-four contenders ranked above him busied themselves in a mini-tournament of sorts to determine the next challenger to Bisping's belt. With the rematch between Luke Rockhold and "Jacare" having been scrapped, Yoel Romero ultimately emerged from that bracket in pole position for the next middleweight title shot, courtesy of a spectacular flying knee knockout over Chris Weidman at UFC 205.
That outcome leaves Souza, Rockhold, and Weidman all available for Mousasi's next move. But for now, Mousasi's focus remains solely on defeating Hall and closing out his UFC contract with a bang.
"If they pay me enough, I have no problem (re-signing early)," Mousasi said. "My goal is to win the belt, sooner or later. I'm 31. You look at the guys that are fighting, they're all 38, they're all 40. I am the future of this. Even if I'm not a champion, I am the future. I'm going to be in the top-five always. I'm going to be in the top-10 always. So they're going to need me anyway, you know?
"Who are new guys? What is this Australian guy, Robert Whittaker -- he's the only guy that's young. But, you know, I don't see him being the new Anderson Silva or something like that, so they're going to need me. I can at least fight for another six or 10 years if I want. I'm not saying I'm going to, but I feel I have a strong point and I've been always in a co-main event or main event, so it's not like I'm an average fighter."