Under different circumstances, Michael Bisping is confident he’d have become friends with Jorge Masvidal rather than rivals.
Prior to his retirement, the former middleweight champion engaged in a nasty war of words with Masvidal that nearly turned physical on a couple of occasions. Just before his title fight against Georges St-Pierre in 2017, Bisping had an altercation with Masvidal at the host hotel where the fighters had to be physically separated before potentially coming to blows.
This past weekend while working as part of the broadcast team at UFC 246, there were no signs of that bad blood as Bisping showered Masvidal with compliments, a far cry from the relationship they shared just a few years ago.
“It’s absolutely hilarious,” Bisping said about Masvidal in an interview with MMA Fighting. “Because a few years ago, I couldn’t stand that guy, and I’m pretty sure he was trying to f*cking have me stabbed or something if I ever went to Miami. You know what happened, what went down, it all stems from that thing with Yoel [where I tore a Cuban flag in half].
“I’ve got nothing against Cubans, I’ve never been to Cuba, I don’t know anything about Cuba, but I’m fighting Yoel Romero, he’s talking sh*t’ and there’s a Cuban flag in a cocktail sitting in front of me. What’s Michael Bisping the fighter going to do? There you go.”
From there things only got nastier, and it appeared that Bisping and Masvidal could have been on a collision course for a fight outside the Octagon. But they never really crossed paths after that last incident in 2017.
It wasn’t until this past February when Masvidal was preparing for a fight against Darren Till in England that he encountered Bisping again.
“So that all started from there,” Bisping explained. “We went back and forth, and he was shooting me all sorts of sh*t on f*cking Instagram and what not, and he was fighting Darren Till. A buddy of mine had a fight [on the card], and he was in the workout room the night before the weigh-ins, and we’re walking down the hallway, there’s like four of us and they’re all big guys. We’re walking down a dark corridor and there’s someone walking towards us and I didn’t know it was Masvidal. Whoever it was stood on the other side of the wall to let us by, and I saw it was Masvidal.
“I stopped, put my hand out and said ‘good luck, Jorge,’ and I think he thought I was going to be an assh*le because I was there with my friends and all that sh*t had happened, but I’m not going to do that. He’s got a big fight the next day. I’m not that guy. I just said, ‘Hey Jorge, good luck buddy,’ and he took that and he was respectful. He was like ‘Mike, you could have been a d*ck there, but you didn’t, and I respect that,’ and we’ve been good ever since.”
Now that he’s put the beef behind him, Bisping has come to admire Masvidal for his persona outside the cage, not to mention his work in the Octagon, where he rattled off three straight finishes in 2019.
If not for the situation that initially transpired with the potential Romero fight, Bisping believes he could have been friendly with Masvidal all along.
“When you meet somebody under different circumstances, like somebody who has been your enemy, if you met them in a different way you could be friends,” he said. “Like Luke Rockhold. I always said if Daniel Cormier can be such good friends with Luke Rockhold, he can’t be that bad of a guy. But we’re just rivals, so we’re not meant to like each other.
“But since then, [Jorge] has been awesome. How can you not be a fan of what he did last year? How can you not be a fan of what he did to Till, [Ben] Askren and then [Nate] Diaz. The way he’s handled himself the last year is just cool as f*ck. I wish him nothing but the best.”
With the U.S. release of his autobiography, Quitters Never Win, Bisping has been able to reflect back on some of the more questionable decisions he made during his fighting career, where he often painted himself as the villain against nearly every opponent he faced.
Much like his rivalry with Masvidal, Bisping readily admits his first instinct was often to pour gasoline on a fire. But thankfully, he’s started to turn a corner with fans and fighters alike in recent years.
“A lot of that was often my fault,” Bisping said with a laugh. “I routinely said the wrong thing and acted like a punk. I was with a bunch of assh*les at one stage of my career, and there’s not a lot of mentions of them in the book, because they didn’t really do anything good for me other than encourage me to act a certain way. Sometimes if you’re around the wrong people, it sort of rubs off on you a little bit. I acted like a d*ckhead over the years.
“Fortunately, I got away from those people and turned my life around and had a different perspective on life and I think people saw that. But I was always authentic to myself. A lot of the time I’m just joking, just messing around, and people don’t get that, but it’s weird. I was hated, especially in America. F*ck me. I was hated. Early on in my career, I was absolutely detested, and fortunately, that’s not the case these days.”
The U.S. version of Bisping’s book “Quitters Never Win” is now available and autographed copies can be purchased at no extra cost at www.MikeBispingBook.com