With eye healed, Bisping sets sights on Kennedy, title shot

Perennial Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight contender Michael Bisping is excited to be returning to action after nearly a year away due to a serious eye injury.

He seems to be just as thrilled just to have an opponent to talk trash about again.

Bisping has been among the top of the division since dropping to 185 pounds in 2008, but has never received the title shot he has so doggedly pursued. Despite the layoff, he hopes a win over Tim Kennedy in the main event of “The Ultimate Fighter: Nations” card in Quebec City on Wednesday night will at least keep him in the conversation.

Bisping insists it’s more a matter of when he beats Kennedy than if he’s able to do it.

“I’ve seen a very mediocre skill set. I’ve seen somebody that is an OK wrestler. I’ve seen somebody that is scared when it comes to actually getting in a fistfight. I’ve seen somebody that backs up a lot,” Bisping said. “He knocked somebody out in his last fight with a very terribly thrown left hook, but it did land and it did knock somebody out. Technically, it was terrible and his striking in general is technically terrible, but somewhat effective at times.”

“He looks like he’s quite strong and he’s always in shape. That’s his strength. But I haven’t seen anything where I stepped back and thought, ‘Wow. I’ve got to really watch out for that.’ ”

That may actually be considered complimentary compared to Bisping’s personal feelings about Kennedy, who asked for this fight on Twitter some time ago and has lobbed insults Bisping’s way on social media for months.

“I might sound like a hypocrite because a lot of people paint me as a bad guy, but to be honest, I just kind of respond to my opponents’ comments. This guy has taken it to a whole new level,” Bisping said. “I’ve never met the guy. I had never heard of the guy, to be honest. I didn’t know who he was. He’s gone over the top, he really has. He’s mocked me and mimicked me. He’s just an absolute (expletive) idiot. Let’s be honest, I’ve enjoyed being able to say how it really is as opposed to dressing it up a bit. You always hear guys say, ‘I respect my opponent and all of that.’ I don’t respect my opponent and I’m going to beat him with no respect when we fight on Wednesday night.”

The 35-year-old native of England who has lived in Southern California for several years says his eye is fully healed and is of no concern moving forward.

He also says the time off was good physically as it enabled him to spend so much time in the gym without preparing for a specific opponent. Not being able to fight also helped him mentally.

“I’m stronger because this whole thing has made me refocus and realize I’ve still got a lot left to achieve in this sport,” Bisping said.

The main card, which also features a middleweight bout between rival coaches Patrick Cote and Kyle Noke, will air live on Fox Sports 1 (Cable 319) at 4 p.m.

There will also be season title bouts in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions, featuring Canadian fighters.

The preliminary card also airs on Fox Sports 1, beginning at 2.

The UFC is right back in action on Saturday night with a live show on Fox (Cable 5). That card takes place in Orlando, Fla., with heavyweights Travis Browne and Fabricio Werdum in the main event.

Also, former women’s bantamweight title challengers Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche square off on the card.

■ NO LAUGHING MATTER — Weston Tolliver wanted to take one mixed martial arts fight just to say he did it.

Then, he won in 19 seconds.

The 30-year-old Las Vegan fought an amateur bout on the Tuff-N-Uff card at The Orleans on Friday night and scored a quick submission over Jovan Edwards.

“Now I’ve got to do it again because it ended too quick,” Tolliver said. “If it would have gone three rounds, I could have just walked away.”

Tolliver ended up in Las Vegas four years ago in search of a place where he could continue his education at a college that would accept his transfer credits and he could continue to pursue his dream of standup comedy.

He’s still performing some, but has finished school and is in search of a job. Tolliver said he got a call earlier in the day Friday about a job interview in Michigan that he will travel to on Wednesday.

“I was thinking about, ‘Oh gosh, am I going to go into this interview all beat up?’ ” Tolliver said.

Fortunately, he didn’t have to worry about that. He had more pressing concerns.

“I just can’t wait to drink and eat pizza,” said Tolliver, who had cut down from 235 pounds to fight at 185. “I just want to enjoy the night, then watch it back and see what happened.”

Tolliver said he will speak to Tuff-N-Uff about scheduling a second fight soon.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.