After years of chasing what he has called a “bucket list” fight against Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping, the first British fighter to headline a UFC event, says he is supremely confident of beating Brazilian legend when they meet in London on Saturday evening. But not everyone in his family shares his opinion.
“A funny thing happened,” Bisping says from England by telephone. “My youngest son told me ‘Anderson Silva is going to win this fight’ – because he thinks he is the greatest UFC fighter of all time.”
Bisping the MMA fighter is bold and often outspoken – he has previously called Silva “a coward” after the Brazilian failed a drugs test – but he has a softer side when it comes to his family.
“My father has always been supportive of my dream to be an MMA athlete. He used to drive me to training and competitions to all over the country. My mum has been to a lot of my fights, but she prefers not to. You know how mums are, they can’t see their child getting hurt and my mum always also worried about my opponents when they used to get hurt or lose against me,” says Bisping, 36.
“I am blessed with three beautiful children, who are so supportive of me. My eldest son is 14, he is like an MMA encyclopaedia; he can tell you anything you want to know about the sport, he loves it and he was in my corner at my last fight. My daughter is not much into the sport, but she is very supportive.”
It has been a long journey to UFC for Bisping, who grew up in the small market town of Clitheroe, Lancashire, in north-west England.
A silver medallist at the 1995 world jiu-jitsu championships and a five-time British kick-boxing champion, he is also a former Cage Rage and Cage Warriors champion.
He shot to prominence when he won UFC’s reality TV show Ultimate Fighter and he now has the third most wins (17) of any fighter in UFC behind Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes.
“I first started out in Japanese jiu-jitsu when I was eight years old and I fell in love with it straight away,” Bisping says.
“I competed in and won many competitions as a child. Then I switched to professional kick-boxing when I was 15 and won many national and international competitions as well.
“I have been dedicated to the sport of MMA since I was a child; the dream was always to fight for UFC. I went to their open auditions in London back in 2005, they offered me a contract and the rest as they say is history.”
Former UFC Middleweight champion Silva holds several UFC records including the longest winning streak at 16 fights. He last stepped into the Octagon at UFC 183 back in January of 2015 against Nick Diaz, after which he was banned for a year for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
“Silva is a legend, I have a lot of respect for him and for what he has achieved in the game. He will go down in history for sure,” Bisping says.
“But this is a big opportunity for me. I see weaknesses in his game, especially his wrestling and grappling.
“When we are in that octagon, I won’t have any respect for him; his opponents have shown him way too much respect in the past. We both are better at fist fighting on our feet, but his ground game is not that good and I will take advantage of it.”
Bisping has been in a strict, twice-daily training regime for the past two months in preparation for this fight that will headline UFC Fight Night 84 at London’s 02 Arena.
“I used to train three times a day before, but now its twice a day during training camp. I train at 10am and then again at 6pm every day. We do different sessions each day. Some days I work on my boxing, other days on my wrestling, grappling and sparring.
“Diet is very strict during training camp, I am on a high protein and low carb diet.”
At 36, retirement is not something on Bisping’s mind just yet, but he is already planning for his future after his fighting days are over.
“I still have a few more years left in the game. I am still getting better and I would like to continue for a few more fights. But I also look into the future, I am opening a UFC gym in LA. It’s going to be a big state-of-the-art facility.
“I do a lot of media work with Fox, I have done a couple of action movies as well and once I am done as a fighter I would like to train professional and youth fighters.”
MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the Middle East and Bisping believes it has everything to do with UFC. There have been two events in Abu Dhabi: UFC 112 in 2010, which was headlined by Silva, and a UFC Fight Night in 2014.
“The fact that I am speaking to a newspaper in Abu Dhabi is because of UFC. They have changed the game for mixed martial arts, taken it to the casual fans and to places around the world where it has never been,” Bisping says. “They have broken barriers. I surely wouldn’t have this life if it were not for UFC.”
He has a message for the fans too.
“I want to thank all my fans in the UAE and Middle East for supporting me and the sport of MMA. I will be out there soon. Tune in on February 27, it is going to be an epic fight against a legend, but I am ready to take Anderson Silva down”.