UFC middleweight Michael Bisping will attempt to secure his first winning streak since 2011 this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland.
Bisping (26-7) is set to meet Thales Leites (25-4) in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday. The 36-year-old veteran is on a relatively quick turnaround, coming off a unanimous decision over CB Dollaway in April.
Despite a lifetime 16-7 record in the UFC, which dates back to 2006, Bisping has never fought for a UFC title. Now fighting out of Southern California, Bisping believes he is only two wins away from finally earning a shot.
The well-spoken Brit shared his thoughts on Leites, the UFC's newly implemented anti-doping policy and more with ESPN.com ahead of his five-round fight.
ESPN: Obviously, Leites is best-known as a grappler but his striking has garnered a lot of attention since he re-signed with the UFC in 2013. Do you think he's very different now than he was years ago, during his first UFC run?
Bisping: To be honest, I really don't. Everybody talks about his newfound striking game. I've been watching his old fights and his recent fights and he doesn't look any different. He looks a little bigger. He looks a little more juiced out -- but other than that, I don't see him looking different. His striking is pretty basic. He has a nice right hand, left hook and leg kick. He's not particularly varied. I think some of the guys he's fought in the UFC have had a very flat-footed style. I mean, his last fight against Tim Boetsch, you don't get much more plodding and caveman-like than Tim Boetsch. He calls himself "The Barbarian" for crying out loud. I'm much more fluid on the feet. I think he'll have a tough time fighting me.
ESPN: You say he looks more "juiced out" now? Is that a concern of yours?
Bisping: I'd say he looks like he's on a very strict strength and conditioning program.
ESPN: The UFC's new anti-doping policy, in partnership with United States Anti-Doping Agency, officially started on July 1. Do you think it has any impact on your fight against Leites and what are your thoughts on it long term?
Bisping: My concerns are not completely alleviated. As long as there has been professional sports, people have always looked for a way to cheat. That's just human nature. It's always been against the rules but people have continued to do it. This policy will bring down the percentage of people doing it, but it won't completely eradicate it. It's certainly a step in the right direction and I want to compete in a fair sport. A safe sport. As far as this fight goes, hopefully, Leites is an honorable man and isn't breaking rules or moral conduct and we'll be on a clean playing field on Saturday.
ESPN: In a post on Instagram, you accused Leites of being involved in the worst fight in UFC history (a title fight against Anderson Silva in April 2009). Did you mean that literally, that it is the absolute worst of all time?
Bisping: They were not my words. Obviously, when you're studying your opponent, you Google his name and it was the title of several websites: Worst fight in UFC history. So, I was just quoting them. It did suck, though. You don't win a fight by lying on your back and putting your legs in the air. Fortunately, he seems to have realized that since then and started punching more people.
ESPN: Is he someone you've ever really been impressed with? I'm sure you don't want to be "impressed" by someone when you're about to fight them, but have you been impressed with his skills in the past?
Bisping: I feel quite the contrary to what you just said, actually. For all the bravado that comes in interviews, when you're preparing for a fight you have to have raw honesty. You have to be honest about yourself -- what can you do against these guys? You have to say, "Oh s---, this guy is good at this." When I look at Thales Leites, I honestly see a big, strong guy who is very, very good on the ground. Off his back jiu-jitsu, not too much to worry about, but top game is very dangerous. His striking is limited but effective. When I fought Dan Henderson (July 2009), I watched tapes with my boxing coach and said, "This guy is f------ terrible." And if you look at Henderson's technique and critique his form from a technical standpoint, he is horrible -- but that doesn't mean he's not effective, as I found out that night. When I look at Leites, he's not the prettiest striker but that doesn't mean he can't be effective.
ESPN: You've mentioned being saddened by Anderson Silva's failed drug test in January and all that I would ask about that is, have there been any days where you've felt completely disenchanted with the sport, due to the failed drug tests in recent years?
Bisping: Just recently, I've kind of taken a new stance and it's because with Anderson Silva, people ask me a lot if I still want to fight him even though he's not a champion anymore. And I always say "of course," that Anderson is a guy I've looked up to. But I've got to say that now, knowing what I know and knowing the damage that's been done to my career and the money it's cost me and the overall playing field I've been competing on -- if you have a history of taking steroids, I'm not fighting you. It's as simple as that. I'm not fighting anybody or rematching anybody who has done steroids. If you've done steroids, you've enhanced your body in some way and you can find some other chump to fight. Kiss my ass, I'm not fighting you. I wish I had taken that stance earlier but I was young, dumb, and thought I was Superman and could beat anybody. But when you're taking steroids, that's a big deal.
ESPN: You've alternated wins and losses in your last nine fights, but you've been adamant about the fact you're still chasing a title shot. Realistically, if you beat Leites, what do you think is next?
Bisping: It's a tough question. Obviously, my answer is I would want to fight for the belt, but it's tied up right now and realistically there are probably a couple guys ahead of me. I want to fight again in November and after I win a big one there, I'm sure I will get a title shot. Yoel Romero just did well. Jacare (Ronaldo Souza). Luke Rockhold. It would have to be one of those three, in my mind.