Whether the outcome of Michael Bisping and Anderson Silva’s fight will determine the truth is likely an individual opinion.
But the sharp disagreement between the top-10 Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweights over Silva’s positive performance-enhancing drug test last year has heightened an already tense rivalry as they prepare to fight Saturday in London at 1 p.m. Pacific time on UFC Fight Pass.
“Anderson Silva was the guy everybody looked up to, the guy who was wildly glorious -- inspiring fighters, inspiring people to take up martial arts, attracting people to watch the UFC. He did it like Superman. And then it comes out the guy was a fraud the whole time,” Bisping told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.
Silva, 40, failed pre- and post-fight tests for steroids the last time he fought, a Jan. 31, 2015, victory over Nick Diaz that was later changed to a no-contest by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which upheld a one-year suspension after Silva testified he had wrongly taken a tainted sexual-enhancement pill.
“There’s no way, at 39 years old, to be the dominant champion he was [from 2006-13], that he would risk his legacy to take steroids at that point for the first time,” Bisping said. “Imagine you’re a fighter. You’ve been a champion longer than anyone in history, you’ve knocked people out like crazy with all these devastating techniques, and then someone comes up to you and says, ‘Try this … steroids.’ You’d say, ‘No thanks, I’m OK, I’ve done very well so far without it.’ No way you’d take it. First time he was ever tested randomly, he gets caught.”
Silva and his manager, Ed Soares, responded angrily to Bisping’s reasoning.
“No, buddy, I never used steroids in my life,” Silva told The Times. “I was all about conditioning. I had the belt for a long time. I’ve never lied in my life. For Bisping, who had nothing, this is frustration, this is nothing. He’s a stupid guy. I’m going in there to kick ... , bro.”
Soares interrupted to urge people to, “look at it logically. Why would Anderson say he took a sexual enhancement drug if it wasn’t true? It was tainted. The amount in his system was at a level where it had to be contaminated… . Who would come out in the media and say they took a sexual enhancement drug unless it was true?”
Said Silva: “My shape, my body never changed. I never took steroids. Why talk … now. I never needed this for fighting. Bisping talks too much. I’m here to fight and I’ll win the fight.”
Brazil’s Silva (34-6) is the UFC’s seventh-ranked middleweight and England’s Bisping (28-7) is No. 6. With new champion Luke Rockhold preparing for a rematch with Chris Weidman and the remainder of the division lacking, the Silva-Bisping winner could jump to a title shot.
“Bisping is convinced he’s catching Anderson Silva at the right place at the right time.”
Said Bisping: “I’ve wanted to fight Silva for so long because he was the ultimate fighter, he had what I wanted, the belt and I wanted to be a champion. I didn’t get the chance because I lost my No. 1 contender matchups. It’s as simple as that.
“OK, there were mitigating circumstances -- the fighters I lost to [including Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen] were taking testosterone replacement therapy, which is now illegal. So, technically, I didn’t lose. But it is what it is. I’m still here, still winning fights and I’m fighting Anderson Silva. I’m hoping I get the job done, then get my title fight.”
How important will the home-crowd advantage be?
“I’ve been on the receiving end of quite a lot of jeering, it wears on you a little bit,” Bisping said. “When you’ve got 20,000 rooting for you, it certainly can’t be detrimental.”
Silva said he believes MMA fans worldwide support him and he feels like the version of himself 10 years ago. After enduring a late-2013 broken leg on a kick that was blocked by Weidman’s leg and waiting out the drug suspension, he said he’ll show how his skills shine following U.S. Anti-Doping Agency testing.
“I don’t have anything to prove to anyone,” Silva said. “I’m just going to go out there and beat Bisping up.”
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Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire