Michael Bisping, perhaps more than any other fighter to step into the Octagon, firmly understands what it takes to reach the mountaintop. As wise a man as you’ll find inside the cage these days, Bisping also understands he must make the most of what spotlight he currently merits.
Spending the better part of a decade chasing the UFC throne and consistently falling short in the final lap, “The Count” finally made good on his goal to become a world champion at 185 pounds. He stepped in on short notice against a familiar foe — one that made him look remarkably mortal less than two years prior — and took the crown all for his own.
While Luke Rockhold was busy having his coaches, ringside officials and the referee explaining to him what had transpired in the four minutes of cage-time he spent with Bisping, the Brit was celebrating the climactic moment of a decade-long journey often only believable on the silver screen. He, and nobody else — not Rockhold, Chris Weidman, nor Anderson Silva — was champion. Despite the upset nature of his victory, nobody could take this moment away from him.
It was a moment Bisping was wise enough to savor. With the likes of Rockhold, Weidman, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Yoel Romero right on his tail, the 37-year-old Manchester native would have been wise to understand how quickly it all was capable of disappearing.
Wisely so, he took the road less traveled upon defending his title for the first time. Rather than step inside the cage against any one of the sharks swimming in the UFC’s dangerous waters at 185 pounds, “The Count” challenged the 13th-ranked man in his division. Dan Henderson, a fighter who had no business meeting a top contender at middleweight, much less the middleweight champion of the world, was getting as undeserving a title fight as one would ever see in the UFC.
Though it wouldn’t come without some wild moments and a bit of controversy, Bisping, as expected, took home the victory at UFC 204. The first British fighter to win UFC gold defended his title on home soil, celebrating a vengeful victory seven years in the making.
In one foul swoop, Bisping defended his middleweight title, avenged a loss against the man who posterized him at UFC 100 in 2009 and continued his role as the hottest commodity the division had.
Only Bisping clearly isn’t looking to use him his time in the spotlight fighting just anybody in title defense No. 2. As far as he sees it, Rockhold, Weidman, Romero and Souza can wait; it’s time to finally welcome Georges St-Pierre back into the Octagon.
If recent comments are any indication, St-Pierre would be interested in the fight as well.
“There are two things that I’m very proud of: The welterweight title that I won, and there’s another record I hold for most wins in UFC history. And now I have somebody who is challenging for it in Michael Bisping,” GSP said on The MMA Hour in June. “I do not believe that if I fight him that he would send me back to a movie set. Yes, he’s bigger than me, but I believe I have more skills, more athleticism and a higher fighting IQ than he does.
“If it’s a fight that the fans and the UFC want to make, they got my number. They can call my agent, no problem.”
Two title defenses against two of the most legendary fighters in the history of the sport; neither of whom, however, had or have any business sharing the Octagon with the man hoisting gold at 185 pounds.
St-Pierre, easily one of the most accomplished fighters in the mixed martial arts has ever seen, spent the entirety of his Octagon career competing at 170 pounds. St-Pierre is a welterweight through and through, often stating he was too small to take on former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva during the historic run that paralleled a dominant run of his own.
Still, Bisping sees a blatant opportunity, and is smart enough to know it’s his for the taking.
UFC 206, sandwiched in between a historic UFC 205 card and the return of Ronda Rousey at UFC 207, is in desperate need of its share of the spotlight. With no convincing co-main event at the disposal of headliners Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson in Toronto, Bisping and St-Pierre would be a logical fit.
Problem for the Brit is the UFC’s current dilemma with Canada’s most popular fighter. St-Pierre has since declared himself a free agent, while the promotion has yet to respect his wishes. With no conceivable settlement in sight, it may be a while before St-Pierre fights inside the cage.
But as long as Bisping continues to fuel the fire, giving the UFC clear evidence of what impact this fight — and only this fight — may have on a dilapidated pay-per-view card, he may just get his latest wish granted inside the Octagon.