Roughly a week after losing the middleweight title at UFC 217 to Georges St-Pierre, Michael Bisping made headlines while simultaneously shocking the MMA community by accepting a fight on short notice.
Another potential USADA violation for Anderson Silva forced the Brazilian out of his main event contest with Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai. In stepped Bisping to fill in and salvage the fight and event.
Three weeks after UFC 217, Bisping will step into the cage and his heroics have Twitter minstrels writing songs in his honor.
The subsequent debate has centered around the safety of the fighter. Is it a good idea for a fighter to step into another fight three weeks after being choked unconscious against a dangerous fighter?
“It’s not that it’s a good or bad idea, it’s the spirit of Michael Bisping,” coach Jason Parillo told SI.com. “Mike is at peace with whatever decisions he makes. He is the type of the guy who’d rather ignore the negative in the past and try to focus on making something positive in the future.”
Quick turnarounds, fight anyone anywhere attitude are the same values that have launched fighters like Donald Cerrone into the “fan favorite” category and “cult hero” realm. Typically, these happen after quick, decisive victories.
Cerrone fought in back-to-back events, two weeks apart in January of 2015. Both of those fights were three-round decision victories.
Ultimately, it’s fighting and the sport itself is a risk to health even in optimal conditions.
“There is no perfect answer to any of this stuff,” Parillo said. “Should I be concerned? Yeah. Should I be excited and positive and go in there to help my guy win the fight? Of course, that as well.
“Once the fight is accepted it’s not my job to sit there and be a worry wart about it. My job is to go in there with the best mind frame we can go in there with.”
Bisping was arguably close to defeating St-Pierre, widely considered one of the greatest of all-time. Had Bisping won, he would’ve been the only fighter to defeat St-Pierre and Silva.
But victory in a winnable fight slipped through grasp and the agony of the loss is particularly haunting considering St-Pierre looked gassed.
“[St-Pierre] was going the other way. F---, if we got that fourth round,” Parillo said. “It doesn’t really matter but it did make both of us cringe a couple times in the week after going ‘God, we could’ve won that fight.’ But it’s neither here, nor there.
"Mike knows he could’ve won that fight and Mike knows he fell short there and it’s frustrating. He wants to get that out of his head and he feels the best way to do that is to go get into another fistfight. And God bless him for it.”
The quick turnaround will help Bisping exorcise some demons, get the taste of defeat out of his mouth and secure a win to build momentum leading into a swan song in London in March.
Not to mention, cement Bisping’s legacy. His heart.
Dustin Poirier is a man on a mission
The Diamond in the rough. Dustin Poirier is a new man after UFC 211 and is on a mission for what he believes is rightfully his. After two illegal knees from former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez connected, the fight was stopped and ruled a no contest. Not a disqualification.
It was a baffling decision then and one Poirier and his team are still grappling with. The rematch wasn’t rebooked and instead Poirier was given another former champion, Anthony Pettis, at UFC Norfolk. The fight ended in the third round, technically ruled a TKO but apparently to an injury Pettis sustained during the fight.
Afterward, Poirier’s ire turned directly towards matchmaker Sean Shelby sitting cageside and Poirier listed out his demands. First, the winner of Alvarez’s fight against Justin Gaethje. And a $50,000 performance of the night bonus.
The aftermath of UFC 211 made Poirier angry, and it’s been channeled into motivation and fuel.
“I think he felt he kind of got screwed. He was dismantling Alvarez, looking great, doing great and he gets cracked with two illegal knees and wasn’t able to finish and that really should’ve been his win,” Poirier’s coach Mike Brown told Extra Rounds. “He wanted to fight him again and I think they said it was going to happen and next thing you hear is now Alvarez is on a television show and he felt like that fight got pulled away from him.”
While interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and lightweight champion Conor McGregor await a date to unify the belts and provide clarity at the top of the division, Poirier recognizes he’ll need a fight before the title shot.
But Brown and his team think he is ready for the title shot now. Poirier and McGregor have fought before, at featherweight at UFC 178. A rematch with McGregor is the most lucrative fight for Poirier, or any fighter, and if it were to happen, McGregor would face a different fighter.
“He’s improving all the time and I’m very confident in his skills and I think he wins that fight,” Brown said. “He’s grown a lot as a fighter in a short period of time. One of the things he’s focused on working on is slowing it down.
“The thing with Dustin, he gets in there and he always wants to get right at the guy so quickly. He wants to get right to business and put his hands on them in the first 30 seconds and start slinging leather as hard as he can. What he’s realized is ‘if I slow it down, reel it in, be patient and just protect myself and pick my shots, the guy will go down.’ Do it later in the fight, you don’t need to finish the guy in the first minute. It’s been a huge improvement and it’s helped his game.”
Cris Cyborg will fight soon
As the UFC looks to book a title fight for UFC 219, the widely accepted idea was newly crowned UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg defending her belt. Six titles were on the line between UFC 216 and UFC 218, effectively ruling them out. Injuries and forays into other sports are holding up other titles from being defended.
It made sense.
But then reports came out that former bantamweight champion Holly Holm, the presumed next challenger, and Cyborg would not be fighting. And while all seemed lost and the UFC floated desperation scenarios for title fights, Cyborg is close to a title fight, possibly at UFC 219.
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“Something is going to be happening. It’s not my job to open my mouth about it, but you know there is definitely something exciting in the works,” Cyborg’s coach Jason Parillo said on the Extra Rounds podcast.
“Gun to my head, we’re going to see her fight real soon.”
UFC 219 is clearly the point of emphasis for UFC matchmaking right now, before even looking ahead to UFC 220 in Boston. Cyborg fighting in Las Vegas can elevate the card in a co-main event role to another title fight.
It looks like it’s just a matter of whom, now. While Holm’s agent ruled his client out, it could be simply a negotiation tactic to leverage public pressure. The other name could be the original opponent for Cyborg at UFC 214 before Tonya Evinger stepped in, Invicta FC featherweight champion Megan Anderson.
Five questions with American Top Team coach Mike Brown
1. American Top Team fighter Colby Covington has been calling out welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, another ATT fighter. How do you see a potential Woodley vs. Covington fight going down?
“Honestly, I haven’t worked with Woodley too much. He’s been [at Roufusport] for quite some time and I’ve never been one of his coaches, that handles him. But I like the fight, it’d be an exciting fight. I think it’s one the fans would really get behind. I think Colby is doing a great job of getting people to pay attention to him, and it’s working.”
2. Speaking of Covington’s efforts to promote himself and get fights by embracing the heel role and starting beefs?
“It’s working. Is this really his character? Is this how he is in real life? No, not 100 percent by any means. But it’s definitely getting people to pay attention and once he started talking is when he started getting the big fights. He got the [Dong Hyun Kim] fight, a top-10 guy, followed by Demian Maia. It’s working, without a doubt, and his name is everywhere and maybe he’ll get a title shot. I’m not sure when, but he is now ranked third so he is pretty damn close.”
3. What were your thoughts on Colby Covington’s comments on Brazil? Other fighters have insulted Brazil in the past and escaped scrutiny, is it a little hypocritical how Covington’s being handled?
“I hate to blow the cover, but he doesn’t mean all this stuff. Literally the following week, he is in Canada doing a pro-wrestling show. He’s playing it up, he’s getting the crowd angry by design, on purpose. Just to get some emotion out of them. Does he mean this stuff? I don’t think so. Does he believe it all? I don’t think so. He’s just playing it up, getting people mad and trying to get the crowd involved. I think he’s realized it’s easier to get the crowd to hate you than to love you.
“Is it my favorite? Would I want to do that? Maybe not, but I can see it’s value. Other guys have done it in the past that have kind of run with it. Bisping is doing the same thing . [Chael Sonnen] did it very well. The thing about Colby, he can fight and he can back it up.”
4. How is Joanna Jedrzejczyk doing mentally after losing at UFC 217? Losing in MMA is a new thing for her and it can’t be easy.
“I was really impressed how she handled herself. She has a really strong mind and is a really smart girl, she knows how to carry when she is in a good spot or a bad spot. Impressed with how she kept her chin up, talked at the press conference even though it was very painful. It was a tough spot to be in and she impressed me in many ways.”
5. Noticed you were in Andrei Arlovski’s corner at UFC Norfolk, what’s the story there?
“That was really cool. Jorge Masvidal set me up with him because they share a striking coach and Andrei asked me to help him. I only helped him for the last three weeks and it was a real honor, first time I’ve worked with him. Ex-heavyweight champ and a guy I looked up to for many years, a great athlete and unbelievably coachable. For a guy who is that accomplished and been around for this long, more than most I’ve seen. He’s listening to everything you say and trying everything you ask. Even in the fight, you yell something out and he tries it right away. It’s crazy, not many fighters are like that and I was just super happy and honored to be a part of it.”