Not long ago, the pound-for-pound discussion in the UFC began and ended with two names: Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre.
From 2005 to 2012, the two all-time greats ripped through a combined 32-1 record inside the UFC Octagon, setting the benchmarks in their respective divisions with a pair of simultaneous, prodigious title reigns. For seemingly forever, Silva and St-Pierre were the two constants in an otherwise volatile sport. And around the same time, Michael Bisping was a character relegated to the distance, a contender always inching towards the summit but never quite completing his Sisyphean climb towards UFC gold.
But with all three men now working on their second decade under the UFC umbrella, the roles have reversed in the most unanticipated of ways. Today, Bisping is a reigning UFC champion — something neither Silva nor St-Pierre can say — and if he is victorious over “GSP” on Nov. 4 at UFC 217, Bisping will have the remarkable distinction of being the only man to ever defeat both legends. That’s a feat few in the sport could ever have expected him to claim all those years ago, and Bisping has no doubt about where such an achievement should place him among the annuals of Hall of Fame greats.
“The two best fighters of our generation, I’ll beat them both,” Bisping proclaimed in the lead-up to UFC 217. “I beat Luke Rockhold, the champion. I defended my loss against Dan Henderson. I’m one of the greatest MMA fighters that there’s ever been. Funny that USADA comes in and I’m the champion.”
It is fitting, of course, that Bisping has put together his best UFC run in an era of advanced drug testing, considering that four of his seven UFC losses came against fighters who later tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs or were discovered to have been using the now-banned practice of testosterone replacement therapy. Despite being so late in his career, Bisping’s current streak of five consecutive wins — which includes a unanimous decision over Silva — is better than any streak the 38-year-old Brit has mounted in his Octagon career.
A victory over St-Pierre would simply be the cherry atop the sundae that is Bisping’s storybook resurgence, and Bisping is confident that after watching St-Pierre dominate the welterweight division in St-Pierre’s prime, he knows exactly what the Canadian icon is planning to do in his return from a four-year retirement at UFC 217.
“That’s why I haven’t watched a single bit of his footage,” Bisping said. “I don’t need to, I know who Georges is. I know what he does.
“You’re going to look to take me down. This is the new Georges St-Pierre everybody, he’s coming back a better version, right? You’re going to do the same thing. Jab, jab, double leg. The easiest gameplan ever. You’ve been doing your jiu-jitsu forever, you don’t want to get hit in the head, you don’t want to strike. I don’t know why you’re hiring a really good boxing coach, because that’s wasting money. Right? I’m going to come out there, I’m going to punch you in the face a few times and hopefully knock you out. We’ll see what happens. You’re just going to look to take me down, smother me, bore everybody to death, just like you do whenever you talk.”
While St-Pierre received plenty of criticism in his latter years for being a risk-adverse fighter, the fact still stands that when “GSP” left the sport in 2012 by vacating his welterweight title, he left as one of the biggest financial draws in the entire sport, regardless of the manner of his fighting style. And St-Pierre was quick to point that fact out to Bisping in the lead-up to UFC 217.
Still, even though St-Pierre has been the target of countless insults from “The Count,” St-Pierre has agreed with Bisping on one thing. When asked ahead of Nov. 4 if the Brit should be considered one of the sport’s all-time greats, “GSP” said that Bisping should indeed. And while the mere mention of the idea may draw ire from fight fans, Bisping — forever the natural heel — simply brushes aside the critics just like he always has.
“I couldn’t care less,” Bisping said. “Maybe (fans see me that way), maybe not — who cares? I’m doing me. I’m doing a good job looking after my family.
“Listen, you’re all going to f*cking miss me when I’m gone, believe you me. It ain’t going to last forever.”