Michael Bisping may be down, but he’s certainly not out.
Bisping, the former UFC middleweight champion who suffered a third-round loss to Georges St-Pierre in the main event of UFC 217, publicly flirted with the idea of retiring in the build-up to his Nov. 4 title defense against St-Pierre. “The Count” eventually distanced himself from those comments in the days prior to UFC 217, but after dropping his belt via rear-naked choke to St-Pierre, Bisping erased any lingering doubt about whether he wants to continue on with his 14-year MMA career.
“I don’t need time off, I’m fine,” Bisping said Saturday at the UFC 217 post-fight press conference. “I’ve got no injuries whatsoever, I’m not hurt at all. I’ve got a couple of little scuffs on my face, but nothing hurt me. Tonight was his night. Maybe (I’ll fight) March in London (at UFC Fight Night 127), that sounds nice. We’ll see.
“But listen, I love doing what I do. I’m from a small town in the northwest of England, I never thought I’d be headlining Madison Square Garden. And I’ll be damned if the last time I do it is me getting choked out on TV. So, it wasn’t my night, but that’s the way (it goes) with professional sports. One man or one team wins, and one man or one team loses.”
Bisping, 38, entered UFC 217 riding the best wave of success of his Octagon career. His five-fight winning streak included triumphs over Luke Rockhold, Dan Henderson, and Anderson Silva, and catapulted Bisping to the UFC gold that had eluded him throughout his previous runs.
Bisping was doing well against St-Pierre, too. Despite being repeatedly taken down, he sliced open several cuts on the former welterweight champion’s face and badly bloodied St-Pierre with elbows from the bottom. St-Pierre, fighting for the first time in four years and making his debut at 185 pounds, also appeared to be gassing out prior to the fight-ending sequence, which saw the Canadian icon put Bisping to sleep with a third-round rear-naked choke.
“I felt he was slowing down,” Bisping said. “Of course, he got me down in the second round. Any time you get taken down, you want to get back up, but I was landing a lot of good elbows from underneath and I was landing some punches from underneath. But even still, even though I was busting him up, I was still conscious of the fight, that you’re losing the fight in that position. Even though I was cutting him open, I knew I was losing the fight, so I thought, ‘Right now it’s time to get back up.’
“So I felt very positive in the fight then. Of course he got me down, but I was able to get back up in the first (round) and in the second when I chose. So yeah, maybe my confidence was my demise. Maybe, but I did feel him slowing down. I could see it on his face, certainly when he started bleeding and things like that.”
While much was made about St-Pierre’s move up to middleweight in the lead-up to UFC 217, Bisping noted that St-Pierre actually felt like a true 185-pounder once the two veterans were clashing inside the cage.
“He looked like one as well,” Bisping said. “He looked huge. I said going into this, I said he’s probably the stronger man. He’s one of those types of guys. He’s a consummate professional, so yeah, he certainly felt like a middleweight when he had his arms wrapped around my neck.”
For now, Bisping will be forced to fall back into the contendership queue following his storybook run to the UFC middleweight title.
But while his time atop the division may have reached an end, Bisping still will always be able to call himself a UFC champion. For a long time, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to say that. So for Bisping, while Saturday night may mark the end of his career’s best chapter, he knows he still has much to be proud of when he looks back on everything he’s been able to accomplish.
“It feels like yesterday, I was champion of the world,” Bisping said wistfully. “Listen, I’m happy. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in this sport. I really am, and you can’t take that away from me. My kids are over there and they just said, ‘I thought you’d be more pissed off.’ And listen, of course I’m pissed off. I’m crushed inside. I am. But also, at the same time, I realize what’s important in life. This is what I dedicated my life to, but I do it for my children. I’m hearing we did over a million pay-per-view buys tonight from the top people, so that’s good.
“It’s a nice little consolation prize, but to answer your question, I’m happy. I’m happy with what I’ve done. Yeah, I’m crushed inside, but life goes on. Life goes on. Every time you fight, one man’s going to win and one man’s going to lose. That’s what you sign up for. You can’t cry like a little b*tch. All respect to Georges. Well done, he beat me. I felt fantastic going in there tonight. I truly thought I was going to smoke him, and I didn’t, so well done.”