UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping still believes Georges St. Pierre chose to challenge him for his comeback fight because he thought it was the path of least resistance to reclaiming a belt.
Bisping is ready to show how mistaken St. Pierre was in that notion when they finally step in the cage in the main event of UFC 217 on Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“This (expletive) only wants to fight me,” Bisping said of being selected the opponent for St. Pierre’s comeback after a retirement of nearly four years. “He doesn’t want to fight anybody else, because he thinks he can take me down and control me on the floor.”
St. Pierre held the welterweight title when he walked away from the sport following a split-decision win over Johny Hendricks in November 2013.
He will come up to 185 pounds to fight Bisping for the middleweight belt, a move Bisping believes is a big mistake because St. Pierre is now “fatter and slower” than when he sat atop the welterweight division.
“He looks like a blown-up version of himself, trying to get bigger,” Bisping said during a Friday news conference to promote the event in Las Vegas. “He’s the biggest Georges St. Pierre that we’ve ever seen, but he’s still the smallest guy that I’m ever going to fight. I was 15-0 at light heavyweight and I’m the world champion at middleweight. He’s a blown-up welterweight.
During his title reign, St. Pierre largely relied on a strong jab and was an elite performer when it came to implementing wrestling and top control in MMA.
He is training with famed boxing coach Freddie Roach for this fight and could be adding more to his toolbox as he prepares to return to action.
Bisping is unfazed.
“Freddie Roach is a great boxing coach, but he doesn’t know (expletive) about MMA,” Bisping said. “He couldn’t even spell UFC, let alone MMA.
“I hope to God, Freddie, you’re trying to turn him into a boxer. I hope he comes out and tries to stand with me, but we all know that’s not going to happen. He’s going to jab, try to take me down. Why? Because we trained together a long time ago and he outwrestled me back then, but that was 12 years ago. But that’s what he thinks is going to happen, so I knew this fight would come off because he hasn’t got the balls to fight anyone who he doesn’t think he can beat, like Anderson Silva, like many other people.”
St. Pierre did attempt to dispel the notion he is only in the middleweight division for one fight to get the title and then return to welterweight or even lobby for a blockbuster bout with Conor McGregor.
UFC officials and St. Pierre himself have indicated he will fight interim middleweight champ Robert Whittaker to unify the belts should he capture the title.
Bisping insists nobody will have to worry about that.
“You ain’t going to be fighting Whittaker, pal, so don’t worry about that,” Bisping said. “I see what you’re saying, but it ain’t going to happen, Georges, so forget this little romance and this fairy tale you have in your head, because you’re going to get your (expletive) kicked and then that’s that.”
The bout is one of three title fights on the card. Joanna Jedrzejczyk will defend the women’s strawweight belt against Rose Namajunas and Cody Garbrandt will put the bantamweight belt on the line against former training partner T.J. Dillashaw.
NAC disputes Lee’s claim
Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett disputed Las Vegan Kevin Lee’s assertion he had hid staph infection from UFC officials and the commission in order to fight for the interim title on Saturday night.
“The ringside physician believed Lee was medically fit to fight,” Bennett told the Review-Journal. “He unequivocally did not hide anything from us.”
Bennett could not go into details on Lee’s diagnosis or any conversations with medical personnel because of privacy laws, but said the commission’s lead physician was one of two doctors to clear Lee.
Lee appeared to have a mark indicative of staph on his chest during his fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 216 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
He said it was part of the reason his weight cut was so difficult on Friday, but he wasn’t going to let the contagious illness or weight cut keep him from fighting.
“I tried my best to hide it,” he said. “It was a big event. A lot had been happening with UFC at the last couple of events and I wasn’t going to let anybody down. I worked my whole life for this. It was like a culmination of things. But I’m not going to let this stop me.”
Lee partly cited fatigue from the weight cut for a third-round submission loss, but credited Ferguson as just being better on Saturday.
The UFC’s parent company announced Monday the formation of a new holding company which will take on the full portfolio of brands owned and operated under its banner.
WME-IMG, a major Hollywood conglomerate which purchased the organization for about $4 billion in 2016, will now be known as Endeavor.
“WME-IMG represented a pivotal moment in our company’s history, but it does not accurately reflect the extent of our diversity or indicate where we’re headed,” Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel said in a statement. “In creating Endeavor, we now have a holding company that represents the very definition of the word itself, constantly striving to push boundaries on behalf of our clients and owned properties.”
Endeavor’s assets include Professional Bull Riders and The Miss Universe Organization in addition to one of the most powerful talent agencies and a multitude of entertainment properties.
— Oct. 20: Bellator 185 (Spike TV), Uncasville, Connecticut
— Oct. 21: UFC Fight Night 118 (Fight Pass), Gdansk, Poland
— Oct. 28: UFC Fight Night 119 (FS1), Sao Paulo, Brazil
— Nov. 3: Bellator 186 (Spike TV), State College, Pennsylvania
— Nov. 4: UFC 217 (FS1/PPV), New York