Michael Bisping's favorite character on the popular animated television series
Perhaps Bisping, known as much in the mixed martial arts world for running his mouth outside the octagon as he is for his toughness inside the cage, sees a bit of himself in the wisecracking cartoon character.
"Eh, could be," the UFC middleweight contender said in a Tuesday phone interview. "But mostly I just think he's hilarious. He cracks me up."
From his propensity to engage in feuds with everyone from Dan Henderson to Jorge Rivera, to a blunt honesty that occasionally gets mistaken for arrogance, the Manchester native has long been a UFC lightning rod.
But we're likely to see less
And for another, he doesn't dislike his opponent at UFC 152 in Toronto on Sept. 22, Brian Stann, and won't pretend he does.
"Honestly, he's a guy I'd like to have a beer with," the 33-year old Bisping (22-4) said. "I think he's a standup guy and I'm impressed with the way he carries himself. Maybe after I beat him, we can meet up for a drink."
Stann (12-4), for his part, returns the compliment. "Michael Bisping is a veteran and a fighter whose style I've admired for a long time," he said. "For the UFC to match me up against him tells me the company thinks highly of me."
So we're not likely to see Bisping channel his inner Peter Griffin as the days wind down to the fight, nor are we going to see Stann use artificial trash talk to try to hype the fight.
"I'm extra motivated for this fight," said Bisping, who is coming off a January decision loss to Chael Sonnen. "I've never lost two bouts in a row in my career. I feel like I've got a little something extra to prove, I've got a sense of urgency. I don't have time to clown around."
Which is good, because this bout deserves to be touted on its own merits, one which has major implications for the 185-pound weight class.
Since Anderson Silva defeated Sonnen to retain his middleweight title on July 7, speculation has run rampant as to who should be the recipient of Silva's next title defense.
Bisping vs. Stann is one of two fights that will help the picture take focus before year's end. The other is undefeated Chris Weidman vs. Tim Boetsch, a former middleweight who is 4-0 since dropping to 185 pounds, which is slated for Dec. 29 in Las Vegas.
It's easy to draw a parallel between the middleweight situation and the contender's scene at light heavyweight a couple months back, in which UFC president Dana White decreed that the winner who looked best in bouts between Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader and Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera would get a title shot. (It didn't pan out that way, of course, but that's for another time).
Bisping doesn't see it that way.
"If I beat Brian Stann, I deserve the title shot," Bisping said. "I've been at this the longest, I have the most impressive resume among the fighters. Who has Chris Weidman beat? Mark Munoz? That's not enough to merit a title shot. I've been at this a lot longer, I've fought the biggest names, I'm getting better and better. If I win, the title shot should be mine."
A mitigating factor that affects the middleweight pack is the looming prospect of a super fight between Silva and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. The much-anticipated bout hinges on St-Pierre defeating Carlos Condit in the main event of UFC 154 in November.
If the planned Silva vs. St-Pierre catchweight fight goes down, the middleweight title will stay on ice for the foreseeable future. In that case, Bisping would be OK with taking another fight in the interim, assuming he defeats Stann.
"There's always the chance Condit defeats GSP and the Silva fight's off," said Bisping. "I think GSP will take him to the floor and hold him there and win a decision, but you can't count Bisping out. Now that said, if I beat Stann, I think I deserve the title shot, but I'm not going to sit around and let myself get rusty. I think if I beat Brian, then it makes sense to go ahead and match me up against the winner of Weidman and Boetsch."
Of course, Bisping has the not-quite-minor detail of getting past Stann, one of the UFC's most improved fighters in recent years. Since leaving Marine Corps active duty, dropping to middleweight and hooking up with Jackson's MMA in New Mexico, Stann is 4-1 (like Bisping, Stann lost to Sonnen) and has become a more well-rounded fighter than he was during his stand-and-bang early days.
Bisping likewise has won four of five. And while the veteran Bisping has traditionally been a well-conditioned kickboxer, he moved to Orange County a year ago in part to up his wrestling training.
"I'm a stronger fighter than ever," he said. "I've got better coaching, I've got a healthier and more mature mindset, and I just feel like I'm at my peak. I'm at that right spot where I've got a veteran's experience but I'm still in my prime."
Still, though, when the octagon door locks on Sept. 22, Bisping expects both guys to stick with their bread and butter. Especially since, in his mind, with three of his four career losses coming via decision, he doesn't feel the judges are going to give him a break.
"I think the fans are going to get a very fast-paced match, I know I, for one, plan on pushing the pace," he said. "I'm not letting this go to the judges. I'm tired of getting robbed by the judges and seeing the other guy get his hand raised in fights I won. Brian may have his experience on the battlefield, but the octagon is my battlefield and I'll be ready for a fight."