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Brad Tavares gunning for Michael Bisping next, doesn’t think Israel Adesanya ‘deserves’ fight with him

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

There was a time when Brad Tavares couldn’t stand Michael Bisping. He was annoyed by “The Count” and watched Bisping’s fights hoping he’d get knocked out. Tavares said when Dan Henderson knocked out Bisping at UFC 100, it was one of his favorite finishes of all time.

“There’s no better feeling when you just can’t stand somebody and that happens,” Tavares said of Henderson’s attitude toward Bisping on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.

Things have changed in recent years. Tavares is now actually fond of Bisping. He’s been wanting to fight him for years — there’s a Twitter exchange going back to 2014 of Tavares asking for a fight. But it’s no longer about vitriol for Tavares. It’s more about respect.

“It became more of, I actually really respect the dude and I was actually really happy for him when he won the [middleweight] belt,” Tavares said. “He’s been at it for so long and I felt like he deserved all those things.”

Tavares, 30, hopes to be Bisping’s opponent in Bisping’s final fight. He said as much after beating Krzysztof Jotko via third-round TKO at UFC on FOX 29 earlier this month in Glendale, Ariz. After that bout, Tavares ran into Bisping backstage. Bisping, who was working as a desk analyst on Fox for that show, told him in no uncertain terms to get out of his face, Tavares said at the time.

It wasn’t like Tavares sought Bisping out — it just happened.

“I didn’t,” Tavares said. “It was just by chance. I’m not one of those guys that will talk shit on Twitter or talk shit and say stuff in front of the cameras. I’m me. The Bisping fight is a fight I’ve wanted for years now — years and years.”

That is the point Tavares wants to hammer home. This is not a new thing. Tavares has been trying to get that Bisping fight for a while now, back before Bisping won the middleweight title from Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 in 2016.

“I’ve been sick of people saying, ‘Oh, why you trying to pick on Mike?’” Tavares said. “They’re kind of just writing him off like he’s a chump, but he’s not. Like, ‘Oh, he’s trying to retire, why you trying to bully him?’ This, that, whatever. It’s like, what the f*ck are you guys talking about? I’ve been trying to fight this dude. I’ve got nothing but respect for him, but at the end of the day don’t call me a bully. If he’s scared, he’s scared. I can’t force him to fight. If he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t want it.”

The UFC might not want it, either. Tavares confirmed that the UFC has approached him about fighting top prospect Israel Adesanya next. Tavares isn’t as excited about that fight, but he’s willing to take it, provided the UFC renews his contract. He only has one fight left on that deal.

“Honestly, I don’t think the kid Israel deserves a fight with me,” Tavares said. “But if that’s what the UFC wants and they’re gonna pay me, I don’t care who it is standing across from me. I’ll smash him.”

When it comes to Bisping, Tavares is not sure if it’ll ever happen. He knows that window is closing. And he doesn’t think “The Count” will sign on the dotted line anyway.

“He doesn’t want to fight me for his last fight,” Tavares said. “So, I’m not holding my breath.”