It's no secret that Michael "The Count" Bisping and Charles "Chainsaw" McCarthy are not exactly friendly with one another. The two have traded insults over the past few weeks. You can see the evidence here and here.
But a week from Saturday all will be settled inside the Octagon. They'll have a chance to put their money where their mouths are at UFC 83: "Serra vs. St. Pierre 2" on April 19 in Montreal, Quebec.
I caught up with Bisping to see how he's been preparing to counter McCarthy's submission attempts, find out his thoughts on his previous fights with Rashad Evans and Matt Hamill, and to ask him point blank how he responds to criticism from some fans who feel he's been pampered by the UFC (he makes a pretty convincing argument that it's all "rubbish").
Always candid, Bisping shed light on the UFC's middleweight division and the reason he'd really like to fight someone who's not afraid to stand and bang with him.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Thanks, Michael. We appreciate you taking the time to talk ... we know you're busy getting ready to fight Charles "Chainsaw" McCarthy at UFC 83 in Montreal, Canada. This is your middleweight debut. How important is a win?
Michael Bisping: It's a must-win situation. I have to win this fight. I lost my last fight — it's the only loss of my career — but I don't want to make a habit of losing. This is my first fight at 185, and I want to start it off in the right way. I don't want to start off with a loss.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You two have traded barbs in the press. He called you "average" in every way. You called him your "fat little friend."
Michael Bisping: Yeah (laughs).
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Let's get right to it. How badly do you want to knock this guy's head off?
Michael Bisping: I'd like to make a statement with this fight because he's not only disrespected me, but he's disrespected all my previous opponents and disrespected my skills. He said I'm average, and to be honest, I think I'm far from average. So I want to teach the guy a lesson. He has no respect, so I'd like to teach him some respect.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): All 10 of McCarthy's victories have come via submission (half of which are by armbar). Clearly, he'll want to submit you as soon as possible. How have you been preparing to counter this?
Michael Bisping: Yeah, of course he's going to look to try to submit me. I think that's his only hope, to be honest. He probably has got better gi jiu-jitsu — who knows, he might have the edge on me. I'm no slouch on the ground either, myself, but let's assume that he has. But I don't think he has better MMA jiu-jitsu, I think the two are two different things.
In preparation for this fight ... obviously number one, he's going to have to get me down to the ground. My takedown defense is pretty good. I've been working with some good wrestlers to keep the fight on the feet. I've been working with various different blackbelts out here in California. Of course we do a lot of jiu-jitsu at our gym in England, as well, but I've been rolling with a bunch of different guys to get me sharp on the ground and get my submission defense good.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you been training up in Big Bear?
Michael Bisping: No, not for this fight. I've trained with the Wolfslair, with my team in England leading up to the fight, and then for the last three or four weeks I've been out here in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Between you and McCarthy, only three fights total have gone to decision, which makes me think this is going to be a quick fight. Let's assume I'm wrong though. Do you think McCarthy will be able to be effective going into a third round with you?
Michael Bisping: No, I really don't. I really don't think he'll be able to be effective in the third round against me. I don't think he'll be able to be effective in the first round — you know, maybe for the first minute or two, but I set a fast pace early, and that's what I'm going to do in this fight. I assume he'll probably be gassing toward the end of the first round.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Has that played into your preparation at all? Have you prepared for a quick fight?
Michael Bisping: No, I've been going three six-minute rounds everyday, whether it's wrestling or sparring — whatever it is, I've been doing that everyday, so I can go the distance. I could go five rounds if I wanted to, to be honest. That's where my cardio is right now. But if the fight is over in 30 seconds, then that's great, you know. But I'm prepared to go the full distance.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You're coming off the first loss of your career to Rashad Evans. Take us back to that fight. What could you have done to better prepare yourself for that fight?
Michael Bisping: Well, I trained in the gym in England, and obviously in England, it's hard to get a lot of good wrestlers. So any preparation I would have changed would have been to try and get more high-caliber wrestlers to train with everyday.
That's kind of what let me down, but I still feel I did well on the wrestling front. To be honest, I should have pushed the action a little bit more. So if I changed anything, I would have pushed the pace a little bit more. But you learn from your mistakes.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): A lot of people think that your split decision victory over Matt Hamill should have gone the other way. I'll be honest with you, though, I'm not one of them. I thought that it was a close fight, no question, but it wasn't the closest I've ever seen. What's your take on that fight, and would you be willing to give Hamill a rematch later on down the road, even if it meant returning to 205?
Michael Bisping: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I've watched the fight a few times since then. The fight was really close. He won the first round, definitely. But I think I just scraped rounds two and three. I landed more shots.
A lot of people who just listen to the commentary seem to think that Hamill won the fight, but if you watch the fight with an open mind and don't listen to the biased commentary, then you might have a different opinion. All the professionals involved in the sport gave it to me. Sherdog.com scored it 29-28, the judges scored it 29-28, the referee ... Joe Silva agreed I should have won. A lot of people like that think that I won the fight. Although 29-28, you know, is a close fight.
I can see why some people would argue the other way, but for some people to say that it was completely the biggest fucking robbery ever is just ridiculous. But to be honest, I'm sick of talking about it.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I know going into that fight you two weren't exactly fond of each other. Since you fought him, did you gain any more respect for him?
Michael Bisping: Yeah, you gotta respect the guy. He's definitely improved, he's a tough competitor. He's a tough guy, he's tough as hell. So I respect him on that front. He cried and moaned a bit about the decision afterwards. He wrote some things on his Web site, and this and that, which obviously I wasn't too keen on (laughs). But whatever. Like I say, I'm kinda done talking about that subject.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Okay, well, excluding your most recent fights with Hamill and Rashad, one of the criticisms that has followed you is that the UFC has pampered you a bit, feeding you fighters who might not be at your level to help not only build your name, but also to leverage your reputation to help break into the British market. How do you respond to these criticisms?
Michael Bisping: Well quite simply like this: I think that's just not the case. If you look at my first fight with Eric Schafer he had a 9-1 record and was coming off a solid victory (over Rob MacDonald) in the UFC where he choked his guy unconscious. That was the first fight on my contract, and I passed the test.
My second fight was Elvis Sinosic, who certainly didn't have the best record but he's very, very experienced. He's fought a lot of people. And Forrest Griffin also fought Elvis Sinosic on the second fight of his Ultimate Fighter contract.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): That's right.
Michael Bisping: My third fight was Matt Hamill, who's a huge 205er and a world-class wrestler — an internationally decorated wrestler. For any U.K. guys, a wrestler is going to be a problem because wrestling is kinda like our kryptonite. So I wouldn't say that that was favorable match-making.
And my last fight was Rashad Evans, who again is a powerful, recognized wrestler and one of the top guys in the 205-pound division. So I think when you look at it like that, it doesn't really stack up well that I'm being protected. But you can't please everyone, and everyone is going to moan and bitch and whine about something, so, there's nothing to it.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well now that you're a Middleweight, there are a handful of Middleweights who are known for being sluggers, like Nate Quarry and Chris Leben. Are there any Middleweights in particular who you'd like to fight, just because it'd make for an exciting matchup? I mean, obviously if you could get a title shot, that would be your first priority, but beyond that, are there any Middleweights who you would just like to bang with?
Michael Bisping: Yeah, exactly, I don't want to single anyone out in particular, because I've got no history with anyone at 185. But that's what I want, I want to go out there and have a fight with some guys and just let it all loose and just bang it out, you know.
My last two fights have been against wrestlers who were going to try and take me down, which means I've got to adapt to their style. You know, I can't let loose with my punches like I'd like to, or time my kicks, because I know the guy's just going to try to take me down.
This fight is going to be a similar scenario because he's looking to take me down. He's going to look for me to make a mistake so he can take me down and try to get into his world.
So I'm really looking forward to a good stand-up brawl, a good fight where I can just let it all loose, and just really let it go and fight. I mean, that's what I'd like to do. I've got a good chin. I've never been knocked out or TKO'd. I've done a lot of kickboxing in the past, so that's what I'd like to do, and I'm looking forward to when that day comes, and I'm sure it will too.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Yeah, well, I'd love to see that, too. Another middleweight fighter, Jason MacDonald, has talked about you. Although he said that he thinks you are a quality fighter, but he would love the opportunity to fight you, just because he thinks that your styles match up in his favor. Is there any interest in that fight?
Michael Bisping: Well for me not really. He's just another jiu-jitsu guy who would look to try to take me down again. I'm not interested in those kinds of match ups. He's been beat by Rich Franklin — and Rich Franklin is out of title contention right now — and he's been beat by him. So it doesn't really make any sense for me to want to fight him right now. I'd gain nothing from it.
Thanks to The Ultimate Fighter I'm quite widely recognized in MMA, so he's probably just looking to make a name off trying to beat me. So that fight would be good for him — I don't mean good for him in terms of, you know, he'd be able to beat me, but rather, I mean he'd gain more from that fight by beating me than I stand to gain from beating him. You know, I'm just aiming for a title right now.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Sure. Hey, someone asked me if you keep in touch with Ross Pointon on at all?
Michael Bisping: Not really. The short answer is no. I see him and catch up with him and say hello. He's a friend, but Ross is busy doing his thing, and I'm busy doing mine.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): UFC 83 features some good fights. I'm actually stoked because I just found out recently that I'll be going. There are a lot of good middleweight match ups, including Rich Franklin vs. Travis Lutter. Who do you like in that fight?
Michael Bisping: Um ... well I don't know, you know, I think it's going to be an intriguing fight to watch. If he looks like he did against Anderson Silva, you kinda lean toward Travis Lutter, to be honest. But I'm expecting Rich Franklin to beat him. But I think Travis Lutter will give him a good fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, Michael, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us, as I know you are really busy. Would you like to thank any sponsors, and do you have any parting words for your fans?
Michael Bisping: Yeah sure. I'd just like to say thanks to all my fans who tune in to watch and who send me messages through my Web site. It really does mean a lot, and it's not something I take for granted. So I'd like to thank them all for that. For me, just coming from a normal background, it really does blow my mind to be able to even say that I have fans. It seems kind of strange, but they're treating me right.
I'd like to thank my sponsors, TapOuT and Hostility. If people want to follow what I'm up to, they can also check out my Web site. Hopefully stop by, and if you're a real fan, buy a bloody t-shirt (laughs).