Michael Bisping can relate to the roller-coaster of emotions Kamaru Usman is about to experience in the final hours before UFC 286.
Usman faces off against UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards in a trilogy match Saturday in the main event of UFC 286. It’s the first fight for both men since Edwards authored one of the most shocking comebacks in MMA history by knocking Usman out with a fifth-round head kick to steal away the title at UFC 278, which also doubled as Usman’s first knockout loss of his career and first loss under the UFC banner after a 15-0 start.
Bisping understands better than most what it’s like to be on the wrong side of an infamous knockout loss. Back in 2009, the Brit suffered one of the most brutal knockouts in MMA history when he fell victim to Dan Henderson at UFC 100. Seven years later, Bisping’s chance for revenge finally arrived when he faced Henderson as his first defense of his UFC middleweight title at UFC 204 — and even despite his momentum and confidence heading into the rematch, the loss played mental tricks on Bisping that he never anticipated.
“For me, when I fought Henderson the first time, I got sparked out, I got knocked out really badly — and you can lie to everyone, but you can’t lie to yourself,” Bisping said Friday at UFC 286’s guest fighter Q&A. “You can talk to the media, you can do interviews, even your friends and family, say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m confident, I’m good, I’m good.’ But then on the day, I started thinking, ‘The last time I stepped in a cage with this guy, I got knocked out unconscious and the whole world laughed at me.’ So the nerves started to creep in.
“To be honest, that’s what Kamaru is going to go through [Saturday] night. Because, he doesn’t know it — and he’s a very, very special athlete, so I’m not saying that he can’t come back from that, because you can — but still, he probably isn’t aware, until the final few hours of preparation, when you’re laying in bed, you’re trying to take a nap, trying to save your energy for the fight, and you find you can’t sleep. Because, hold on a minute, the realization that you’re going to fight this man again and you might get put to sleep in front of the whole world, it’s a nerve-wracking thing.”
Of course, Usman isn’t the only one who will be feeling the pressure at UFC 286.
Like Edwards, Bisping’s first defense of his unexpected UFC title reign served as a homecoming of sorts, with UFC 204 taking place in his home country of England.
So Bisping is well aware that Edwards will be dealing with his own nerves as UFC 286 nears.
“Obviously everyone dreams of that. When you’re a fighter, that’s literally like, you imagine that as a fairy-tale scenario — winning the belt, bringing it home to your country and your home city, and defending it in front of everyone,” Bisping said. “So an incredible moment and one of the highlights of my career obviously. But it’s a very, very nervous moment as well, there’s a lot of pressure on you.
“And for Leon, again, listen, it’s a tough moment. He knows he’s got a tough fight on his hands. I do favor Leon on the feet, 100 percent. It all comes down to those takedowns. At the end of the day, you do what you can in training camp, and what will be, will be.”
UFC 286 takes place at London’s The O2 Arena.
Full video of Bisping’s guest fighter Q&A alongside UK MMA veterans Tom Aspinall, Jimi Manuwa, Brad Pickett, and Ian Freeman can be watched above.