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Michael Bisping rips potential opponents for retirement bout, open to fighting at UFC Liverpool

Will Michael Bisping ever fight again?
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Will Michael Bisping ever fight again?

The 39-year-old former UFC middleweight champion served as one-third of a fan Q&A alongside Paige VanZant and Dan Hardy on Friday after UFC London’s weigh-ins and his impending retirement was seemingly the topic on everybody’s mind. “The Count” initially intended to compete in his final fight at UFC London, but the timeline didn’t fit after Bisping suffered back-to-back stoppage losses in November. Bisping has been noncommittal about a retirement bout since, so on Friday his countrymen put the question to him bluntly: If Bisping does fight again, who does he want to fight?

“I’ve done this for a long time,” Bisping said at the UFC London fan Q&A. “I started martial arts when I was eight years old. I’m almost 40 these days, which is kinda crazy. Me and Dan (Hardy) started training together back in 2003 in Nottingham, so we’ve been at this for a long, long time, and I’ve fought everyone, I’ve fought on every part of the world, every continent, all over the place.

“So really, and I know this is a boring answer, there isn’t someone that I’m striving to fight.”

That answer kicked off a carousel of U.K. fans quizzing Bisping about potential opponents for his swan song. And the first name thrown his way was a man Bisping is extremely familiar with: Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold.

Bisping and Rockhold have gone 1-1 against each other in two past meetings, with Bisping infamously seizing the 185-pound strap from Rockhold via first-round knockout in the pair’s rematch at UFC 199. It’s a rivalry that has renewed in recent days, with Rockhold angling hard on social media for the trilogy fight. But Bisping appears to be lukewarm on the idea.

“There’s somebody that I’ve knocked out before that I think I might want to knock out again, and I believe you all know who I’m talking about,” Bisping said. “And this week he was saying, ‘Sign the contract, Mike. Sign the contract.’ Trying to make it out like I was ducking him. So I tweeted back, I’m like, ‘What contract? Please present me with the contract, the location, the date, whatever it is, because you’re full of sh*t, Luke. It doesn’t exist.’

“Now, if I was presented one, that is a fight I wouldn’t turn down. But that said, for my last fight, I’d rather have it be against somebody I respect. Of course over the years, I’ve been controversial, shall we say, but I’d rather fight somebody I respect, put my best foot forward. Not let myself down and talk sh*t like I always do.”

The next potential name that was thrown Bisping’s way was an opponent the Brit is equally familiar with: Vitor Belfort.

Bisping and Belfort fought back in 2013, with Belfort winning the fight via second-round knockout at the height of the testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) era. The knockout left Bisping with an eye injury that still persists to this day, and Bisping isn’t interested in ever dealing with Belfort again.

“Vitor Belfort is the type of person, I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire,” Bisping said.

“I have no respect for that guy. Honestly, I don’t want to share an Octagon with him. I don’t want to be associated with him whatsoever. I think he’s the biggest hypocrite in the world. He’s one of the biggest cheaters in the world. He’s a total hypocrite. He talks about Jesus and things like that but he’s not a very good person, and he is one of the most prolific cheaters in this sport. And this is a sport for men, this is about martial arts, it’s about testing yourself at the highest level. It’s not who’s got the best doctor and who can take the best steroids. So, once again, I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire.”

Bisping was equally soured on two other options thrown his way, Yoel Romero and Jorge Masvidal, two fighters with Cuban roots with whom Bisping has feuded over recent years.

“F*ck Yoel Romero,” Bisping said. “Okay? I don’t like Yoel Romero, even though he loves me.

“Jorge Masvidal has been beaten by a 135-pound fighter,” Bisping continued. “He’s lost to lightweight fighters. I don’t go around looking for low-hanging fruit. He’s not somebody that I like, and he sends me a lot of abuse via Instagram. He’s always sending me messages, he’s trying to get a fight. I’m not interested in Jorge Masvidal. In the words of Conor McGregor, who the f*ck is that guy?”

The one idea that Bisping did seem receptive to was not an opponent, but a date.

The next UFC show held in the U.K. will be on May 27 when the organization heads to Liverpool, England for the first time ever. The event was announced Friday, and Bisping said he could potentially see himself competing there.

“Obviously that’s not too far from where I’m from,” Bisping said.

“You never know, I may. Yeah, possibly. That actually does work into my timeline, so we’ll see. We’ll see. If the UFC made me an offer that I can’t refuse, well then I can’t refuse it.”

That revelation led to a shot-in-the-dark question of whether Bisping would ever consider fighting in a main-event bout against Darren Till, the Scouse welterweight contender who is set to headline UFC Liverpool. But while Bisping was complimentary of Till, he explained that Till doesn’t exactly check the boxes of what he is looking for in a farewell opponent.

“I’ve never met the guy, he seems like a lovely fellow,” Bisping said. “No, I don’t want to fight him. Plus he’s 170, I fight at 185, and I’ve got maybe one more fight left in me. So we’ll see what happens, but Darren’s going to have a great future. My Thai boxing coach Darren Morris can’t say enough good things about him; he knows him from the Thai boxing world and I’m sure he’s going to have a fantastic career. His last fight against Donald Cerrone was incredible, so the future’s very, very bright for Darren. For me, fingers crossed I do one more fight, and I’m looking for someone that’s of similar status to me. And I don’t mean that detrimentally to Darren, but he’s an up-and-comer and I want someone of similar status to myself.

“I want someone who’s a household name in mixed martial arts. It’s going to be my last fight, I want it to be a big one. I don’t want everyone saying, ‘Oh, he fought this up-and-comer who’s a weight class below him.’ As I said, that’s not detrimental to Darren Till. I just said a lot of very nice things and I wish him all the best. I want a proven 185er, maybe even a light heavyweight. I’ll probably go up to 205 for my next fight. Cutting weight and dieting is a bit of a pain in the ass.”

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