LAS VEGAS -- When you’ve essentially become a “heel” character in the UFC, it can be a very difficult identity to shake -- especially when you’re featured on reality television.
Middleweight contender Michael Bisping knows this as well as anyone. During the past 14 seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter,” we’ve heard fighters and coaches admit that perhaps, maybe, the UFC did some selective editing to spice things up.
In the sixth episode of this season, Bisping pupil Diego Brandao knocked out Steven Siler from Jason Miller’s team with an absolutely vicious-looking combination.
In the aftermath of the knockout, the edited sequence immediately cuts to Bisping celebrating and distributing insults toward Team Miller. A still-disoriented Siler, whose dreams of becoming the “next Ultimate Fighter” have just gone up in flames, stands there, bewildered. It all kind of makes the Brit look, eh ... kind of bad.
Bisping, who has become accustomed to the role of heel, shakes his head when describing the moment.
“Ultimately, everything I said -- I said. It came out of my mouth,” Bisping told ESPN.com. “But some things were definitely taken out of context and I don’t care who that p---ed off. That’s a fact.
“When Steve Siler got knocked out, he was crying his eyes out. I gave him a big hug and said, ‘Listen mate, you’re a fantastic fighter.’ I built him up. After that, I got into some verbal sparring with Miller. So they cut back and forth between the two and it looks like I’m shouting at Siler. That wasn’t the case at all.”
As much as discussion tends to surround his personality, the real storyline behind Bisping (21-3) heading into this weekend’s fight against Miller is a 32-year-old, well rounded mixed martial artist trying to get to Anderson Silva and, more importantly, the UFC middleweight title.
Hate Bisping as much as you want, but there are a few facts that can’t be ignored. He’s proven his talents -- 11-3 in the UFC since 2006 -- and he’s entering what should be his prime years in competition.
Bisping certainly can make that argument, but he doesn’t allow himself to be absorbed with it. By his assessment, he needs to beat Miller this Saturday. Then he probably needs to win one more.
“Fighting Jason, I don’t think he gives me the right to fight for the title,” Bisping said. “He’s not the name. He’s not the guy to do it.
“That said, the amount of consecutive wins I have makes a case for it. Seems like Mark Munoz gets a No. 1 contender fight for beating Chris Leben, a guy I beat three years ago. Chael Sonnen just had his shot, then failed a steroid test on the back end of it. But I think [the UFC] knows what they’re doing. I’ll probably fight one more time after this and should be fighting for the title next year.”
In anticipation of a 2012 title run, Bisping decided to change scenery this year, relocating his family from England to the Anaheim, Calif. area.
The decision has brightened his life both metaphorically and literally speaking -- his morning runs now take place on sunny beaches instead of in English rain and mud --but it hasn’t been cheap. He’s maintained much of his same camp, which means he pays for their full expenses during camp.
“Training camp is expensive,” Bisping said. “Some coaches come from overseas, so you have to pay the earnings they’ve lost for coming here, plus food and hotels. Then you’ve got sparring partners.
“Then it’s, ‘Oh, what are we doing this weekend? Let’s go to the movies.’ I’ve got to pay for that because they’re there for me.”
It will all be worth it, however, when Bisping reaches the end result of a title shot. And while he admits it’s unknown whether or not he has what it takes to dethrone Silva, he thinks his chances are better than what most think.
“I want my shot at him and I feel I match up well,” Bisping said. “I’m very elusive when I want to be and I hit hard, contrary to popular belief. I’m a complete fighter.
“I’ll give him a better fight than what he’s had recently. Nate Marquardt fell on the floor. Forrest Griffin fell on the floor. Yushin Okami stared at him a bit, then fell on the floor. I’ll give him a fight. Will I beat him? That remains to be seen. But trust me, I’m capable of it.”