Michael Bisping is never one to hide his feelings about performance-enhancing drug use in MMA, and Wednesday was no exception.
Bisping stepped up to face Kelvin Gastelum on Nov. 25 in the new short-notice event of UFC Shanghai after Gastelum’s original opponent, Anderson Silva, was pulled from the event due to a failed USADA drug test. The failed test marked Silva’s second PED scandal over the last three years — in 2015, Silva tested positive for two steroids in an in-competition drug test prior to his fight at UFC 183.
And for Bisping, Silva’s potential status as a repeat offender does irreparable harm to the Brazilian’s legacy as a legendary UFC middleweight champion.
“This completely destroys his legacy, in my opinion,” Bisping said Wednesday on a UFC Shanghai media conference call. “There’s a lot of people who have short memories and they’ll just remember his performances. His performances were great. But if you test positive for steroids twice — once, you can try to talk your way out of it; twice, I think the nail’s in the coffin. The guy was a cheat and it’s shame. It’s really, really disappointing. I was a huge fan of Anderson Silva. It’s just disappointing and it’s a black eye for the sport of MMA.”
The next chapter of Bisping’s own legacy will written at UFC Shanghai. The event will provide a quick turnaround for “The Count,” whose run as UFC middleweight champion met a dramatic end less than two weeks ago at UFC 217, when Bisping suffered a third-round submission defeat at the hands of Georges St-Pierre.
Bisping, 38, jumped at the chance to earn a quick redemption — and another quick payday — against Gastelum, and the opportunity feels familiar in a small way. Bisping’s title run began with a short-notice shot at the middleweight strap, when he memorably knocked out Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, and Bisping admitted that the impromptu nature of his UFC Shanghai booking does “take a little of the pressure off” compared to the stakes he’s been shouldering over the past year as a titleholder.
“Some people play the piano. Some people fight. I like to fight, simple as that. I like to fight and I haven’t got the belt anymore, so f*ck it, let’s fight,” Bisping said.
“I’ve done this my entire life. I’ve done martial arts since I was eight years old, and as I’ve said before, I’m in shape and I’m on weight, I’ve got no injuries whatsoever. So realistically, I don’t see how I could’ve turned this down. I honestly think this is a win-win situation for me. I get to go out there, I can get back in the win column hopefully, I get to put on a great fight, remind the world what I’m capable of, and I get paid again. So it’s all positives from my perspective.”
Bisping acknowledged that while he will likely have a size advantage over Gastelum, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll hold all of the physical advantages over the former welterweight, who could very well be stronger or more powerful than him. But as an old-school fighter, Bisping has never seen a matchup that hasn’t felt worthwhile, and more than three years after his war of attrition with Cung Le at UFC Macau, he hopes to push his record in China to a perfect 2-0.
“I’ve got fond memories of fighting in China in the past,” Bisping said. “I fought Cung Le and beat the piss out of Cung Le out there, who has a lot of similarities (to Gastelum). He’s a southpaw, he’s shorter guy, he’s a stockier guy with good, explosive striking and actually not bad wrestling. It went well, so I’ve got good memories and hopefully it goes well again. We’ll see. No doubt Kelvin has applied himself and we’re going to see a great version. He was fighting Anderson Silva; everybody always gets up for Anderson Silva, so I’m not expecting an easy fight.
“Kelvin’s a tough guy,” Bisping added. “He’s a great fighter. He’s got excellent boxing, strong dude, good wrestling. He’s in shape and always getting better. I’m not expecting a walk in the park, far from it, but this is what we do. There’s no easy fights out there. We’re all big, strong alpha males that are trained in martial arts, so may the best man win in China.”