Through a long and successful Ultimate Fighting Championship career, Michael “The Count” Bisping has become a polarizing figure in the eyes of fellow mixed-martial-arts fighters, media and, of course, fans.
Bisping, who stopped by Morton’s The Steakhouse in Burbank on Monday afternoon ahead of his middleweight matchup with Brian Stann on pay-per-view Saturday, has been the poster boy for UFC success in his native England and is routinely one of the most booed villains in front of United States crowds.
It’s something the brash-talking, quick-witted Brit has grown accustomed to over a MMA career that’s spanned 26 fights and more than eight years, with the last six and change coming inside the UFC’s octagon.
“Not in the slightest,” said Bisping, 33, as to whether a crowd’s negative reaction troubles him. “It used to [bother me], but I’ve been doing this a long time. You gotta get thick skin in this business.
“I don’t cry myself to sleep over it.”
Bisping (22-4, 12-4 in UFC) is set to take on Stann (12-4, 6-3 in UFC) on Saturday’s UFC 152 pay-per-view, which is headlined by a UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones defending against Vitor Belfort and Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson vying for the company’s first-ever flyweight strap, at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.
Stann, a hard-hitting, medal-honored U.S. Marine, is a full-fledged American hero, hence his All-American moniker. Renowned for his affable personality, Stann isn’t the easiest target for smack talk, thus Bisping’s verbal barbs haven’t been as abundant as they were in the build up to past bouts against the likes of Jason Miller, Jorge Rivera, Dan Henderson and Matt Hamill, but that hasn’t stopped Bisping entirely.
“Everybody likes him. I love the guy. We spent some time together in Canada, spent like five days doing PR,” Bisping said. “Unfortunately, he’s a really nice guy, there’s nothing else you can say. I’ll still stir the pot. ... You have to promote the fight.”
And for Bisping, who comes from a kickboxing background, but is noted for his all-around game that includes crisp striking, noted conditioning, underrated submissions and solid takedown defense, talking the talk is a key component to his game.
“I’m not trying to discredit him, I’m trying to get a psychological edge,” said Bisping, who won the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and has twice gone on to be a coach on the show.
As for how he matches up with Stann, he believes Stann truly has just one aspect to his game that is dangerous.
“He’s kind of a one-trick pony,” Bisping said. “He’s got good power in his hands and that’s about it.”
It’s power that’s ended nine bouts though, as 12 of his victories have come via knockout, including wins over such notables as Jorge Santiago, Alessio Sakara and the iron-chinned Chris Leben. And it’s through Stann that Bisping must go to possibly earn a shot at Anderson Silva’s UFC middleweight crown.
But Bisping, confident as he might be, doesn’t believe Stann will be an easy fight. And, title-hungry as he might be, Bisping isn’t about to look past Saturday’s bout.
“I’m not looking past Brian Stann. Brian’s tough and it’s gonna be a hard fight,” Bisping said. “I’ve answered a lot of questions about title implications because people ask them. But it’s not where my head’s at. I’m completely focused on Brian Stann.
“I don’t want to go out there and get my ass kicked in front of millions of people, I’m not looking past him at all.”
As it is, Bisping’s problem and appeal all the same may very well be that if anybody asks him a question, he’ll gladly answer. Hence, people don’t just ask him questions about himself and his upcoming opponents. Much like other outspoken and well-spoken fighters such as Chael Sonnen and Ronda Rousey, sound bytes are often sought on all things MMA.
Bisping fielded plenty on Monday, ranging from Jones’ controversial decision to turn down a fight with Sonnen which led to the cancellation of UFC 151 to the recent last-minute UFC 153 salvation that included a main event between Silva and Stephan Bonnar. He even offered his thoughts on Rousey, who trains at the Glendale Fighting Club, when asked.
“She’s great, she’s awesome,” Bisping said. “Her armbars are great.”
Bisping admits he’s, “put my foot in it a few times over the years,” but more than anything it’s all part of being a professional fighter, as he sees it.
He recently moved his girlfriend Rebecca and their three kids — Callum, Ellie and Lucas — to Orange County in a move he said has been, “the best thing I ever did career-wise and for my family.”
And, as a part of furthering his career, he answers just about every question and accepts just about every media opportunity.
“[Maybe the media thinks] ‘let’s call Bisping, he’ll dish the dirt, he’ll give us a headline.’ Maybe I talk too much, I’m just honest, maybe honest to a fault,” he said. “I love what I do, I’m very passionate about it and I hope to do it for as long as I can do.
“There’s hundreds of worse ways to make a living. I’m sitting at Morton’s Steakhouse eating great appetizers.
“Yeah I enjoy it, I love it, I love what I do.”
For more information on UFC 152, visit www.ufc.com.