Michael Bisping’s UFC journey has been more winding than most. The reigning UFC middleweight champion first crossed the Octagon threshold over a decade ago, a contestant on the third season of a reality show that’s now hitting season 35. Since that time, Bisping has ridden the roller-coaster of mixed martial arts unlike few others, amassing the most fights and wins in UFC history while serving as the quintessential almost-there who “never won the big one” until his unlikely ascension to the top of the UFC middleweight division last year at age 37.
This summer, the next step of Bisping’s underdog title reign will unfold when Bisping returns from knee surgery to make the second defense of his belt, with the Brit preferring a timetable of either June or July. And though Olympic medalist Yoel Romero is the assumed No. 1 contender for the next shot at Bisping’s title, “The Count” continues to hold out hope that he can land a much bigger fight against UFC luminary Georges St-Pierre, who last year announced his desire to return from a self-imposed hiatus and challenge Bisping for the belt, and just this past week officially re-signed with the UFC.
“The only reason I’m saying Georges St-Pierre is because I know he wants to fight me, and I was offered a fight with him. That’s the only reason he’s in my mind,” Bisping said this week on The MMA Hour. “If I wasn’t offered a fight with him [in 2016], I wouldn’t be thinking Georges St-Pierre. But that just got that carrot dangled in front of my face of a several-million-dollar payday. Call me stupid, but I want that f*cking carrot. I want that several million dollars in my bank account. I want it for my children’s sake, for my family, for when I’m retired so we can still live a good life.
“That’s why I’m doing it. Not because I’m trying to rob the UFC, or rob the fans of the No. 1 contender, or do wrong to Yoel Romero. I want it for my family’s sake. So in a perfect world, I fight Georges St-Pierre, I will beat Georges St-Pierre, I will not be injured in that fight Georges because Georges never injures anybody in a fight, and then I will do a quick turnaround, within six weeks I will fight Yoel Romero. That’s what he wants, that’s what he’ll get. I’ll guarantee you right now, hand on my heart.”
St-Pierre is currently targeting a UFC return in the second half of 2017 and has repeatedly made it clear that he would like to fight Bisping.
Bisping, on the other hand, is currently riding a five-fight win streak, the longest of his 11-year tenure in the UFC. The accomplishment is impressive not only because of his age, but also because it was just three years ago that Bisping was forced to contemplate retirement due to a badly detached retina that nearly derailed his fighting life. During the time frame around his injury, Bisping lost four of seven bouts and appeared to be on the last legs of a quality UFC career.
But Bisping’s latest chapter has been a revelation that wholly reshaped his UFC legacy. And now, having been with the company from its early days to the current $4 billion era of mega-cards and mega-paydays, Bisping simply wants one last chance to secure his family’s financial future before his best opportunities are behind him.
“I’ll say this, and with the greatest respect to the company and Dana White — Dana has always been very fair with me, Dana has always treated me with respect, and this and that, and I’ve always been happy. I’ve always been happy with the amount of money I’ve been paid. But now I see we’re in a new age in the UFC, and I see gigantic paydays going around that I have never been a part of,” Bisping said. “I’ve done very well, don’t get me wrong. I’ve done very well, without getting into specifics, but I see other people now making a lot more money and that does piss me off a little bit.
“I just would like to be a part of one of these gigantic cards before I retire. That’s all. Just to get a big payday that I can retire on. Now, could I retire now and lead the rest of my life? No, I can’t. As I said, has the UFC always paid me well? Yes, they have. And I’ve got no qualms. I’ve always signed contracts, and at the time, I’ve always been happy signing those contracts. So I can’t say that. But I see Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor getting $3 million guaranteed, plus pay-per-view, so that would be $10 million paydays. I’ve never had a $10 million payday. I’ve never had a $1 million payday. So yeah, of course, that’s why I want the money fights. Who doesn’t want that? I’ve done this my entire life. I’ve dedicated myself to this sport.
“Of course you have to earn it,” Bisping continued. “I’ve earned it, I’m the world champion now, so I want to be a part of the biggest fights. That said, it’s a business, and you create your own hype and people tune in. But I don’t think everyone’s tuning in to watch Tyron Woodley, but he did pretty well on his last fight [at UFC 205]. Joanna Jedrzejczyk. They’re all on these big cards, multiple title fights on one card. When you’ve got the most sick, sick card you’ve ever seen, that’s always going to do well on pay-per-view. I’d like to get a part of something like that.”
Bisping reasoned that a St-Pierre match-up would “probably do five, six, seven times the business” that a bout against Romero would, thus explaining why he is still holding out hope for the St-Pierre fight despite criticism he’s received from fans for allegedly trying to duck Romero.
But all of that being said, Bisping added that if the UFC asks him to fight Romero, he would be more than happy to do so. And despite past statements that he plans to retire once he loses the belt, Bisping said it would be hard to walk away once that time actually came.
“I’ve told [my wife], when I lose the belt, I’ll retire. Now, when that becomes a reality, which it inevitably will, will I retire? Probably not,” Bisping said. “Probably not. I’ve said that, but I do loving competing. I know I would miss it terribly, and I would still fight for the love of the sport. That said, I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve. I was the first British champion. I’m the world champion. I’ve fought all over the world. I’ve fought more main events, more co-main events than anybody. I’ve had more fights than anybody, more wins than anybody in the history of the UFC. I’ve achieved a lot. There’s not much more to achieve.
“But I do love it. It is part of my makeup. That said, alternatively, whilst I’m still 37, there are other things I want to achieve in life, whilst I’m still young enough to go out and pursue these things. I don’t want to be a guy who sticks around too long. So to answer your question (of if I’ll retire when I lose the belt), probably not. Probably not, but it depends. We’ll see what the future has to offer.”