Michael Bisping entered November as the UFC’s middleweight champion. Three weeks, and an unplanned for jaunt across the Pacific later, he’s on a two-fight losing streak. How’s that for a lousy month? Georges St-Pierre cut off his airflow in New York and took his title, and Kelvin Gastelum scattered his wits about Shanghai. Hopefully somebody buys that man a drink on his ride home. He has earned it.
Of course, Bisping’s prospects never looked too great when it was announced he was Asia-bound for a last-minute date with an Icon Smasher like Gastelum. He got nicked up a bit before being choked by GSP, and people were basically pointing him towards the exits after a distinguished fight career. But Bisping didn’t want to go out like that. He wanted to get right back on the horse, which for some fighters can be therapeutic. In Bisping’s case, it felt more like busywork to keep his mind from dwelling on what happened in New York, as well as phase one of an exit strategy — go fight Gastelum, cash that check, then have a retirement fight in London come March.
Problem was his pit stop on the road of fare-thee-wells was against Gastelum, a masher of the most sordid kind. Gastelum made Bisping look old in there, like a well-loved chew toy. He dashed off a couple of shots early on Bisping and, after teasing out a right, landed a left that dropped him where he stood. It wasn’t quite the Hendo “H-Bomb,” but it was close. Bisping collapsed like all his bones had imploded within. It was a hard one to watch, given the circumstances and all the wars he’s been through. And given that, you know, we just saw him lose three weeks ago.
There’s a word that gets thrown around a lot when describing fighters. I used it then and I’ll use it again, this time in italics for emphasis: Bisping is a warrior. He’s one of the few people who you can call that without an ounce of hyperbole. In fact, with his general lack of self-preservation, sometimes we accuse Bisping of being a warrior, like we’re watching him punch through his own desire to self-destruct.
But Bisping is also Bisping. He doesn’t like to lose, and losing twice in quick succession — even if the second fight was under ridiculous circumstances, to save an event and collect a nice ransom — will be double trouble when he gets down to the reflections. It’s a shame the UFC doesn’t have a later date for its next trip to London, to give Bisping proper time to play at the Old Speckled Hen taps and recover. Before he volunteered for Gastelum, people wanted to see him fight the Cuban hydrant Yoel Romero, to settle a beef.
At the moment, that thought seems cruel. Especially if that fight were to take place March. The image of Bisping getting knocked out by Gastelum will definitely carry over to the spring, but perhaps in another couple of weeks — when Bisping starts chirping in public at Romero (or whoever it is he wants to piss off) — enthusiasm will slowly begin building back up. Bisping will convince us, somewhere along the way, that we want to see him go out the way he intended.
Three weeks ago at Madison Square Garden, Bisping said he just wanted to get out of the press conference and hit a bar. It was understandable. This time, after he and Gastelum exchanged hugs for having gone through with a fight that materialized at the snap of a finger, he said he was old. He was lighthearted when he said it. He was still smiling as if he couldn’t help but appreciate the bitter swings of his occupation.
November wasn’t a good one for Bisping. He came into the month answering questions about unifying his title against interim titleholder Robert Whittaker in Perth, and he leaves it hearing Gastelum lobbying for that fight through the ringing in his own ears. How fast relevance transfers through bodies in the UFC. The old warrior lost his title in New York, and in Shanghai he took it on the chin. He has one more left in him.
Between then and now, a drink or two to ease the pain.