Michael Bisping accepted a short notice fight with Kelvin Gastelum last month in large part because he wanted to erase the pain of the defeat that cost him his middleweight title three weeks earlier.
In hindsight, “The Count” can admit that it might have been the wrong move. The 38-year-old Bisping suffered a first-round knockout loss to Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 122 in Shanghai on Nov. 25. The defeat came on the heels of a taxing clash with Georges St. Pierre at UFC 217 on Nov. 4, a contest in which the Englishman was rocked and eventually choked unconscious in the third stanza.
“That [Gastelum] fight was me trying to exorcise some inner demons and try and get back in the win column ASAP.,” Bisping said on his "Believe You Me” podcast. “As I said, it was a huge gamble and for many reasons it was the wrong move, but I don’t regret it. If you look at the grand scheme of things , If I can take myself out of it emotionally, I can see that it was the wrong move, but at the time it felt right, so I don’t regret it…I wanted to win. That wasn’t me just trying to cash in and get another payday. I wanted to win; that’s what I went to China to do. But I didn’t get that. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and I was so weak and skinny and pathetic. I was ashamed of myself….I lost so much muscle mass, it was unbelievable. That was in the GSP fight and in the Kelvin fight.
“After the GSP fight, when I agree to take the Kelvin Gastelum fight, I thought, ‘Well, I just had a week off but I was in great shape, so let’s get right back to it,’ and I sparred everyday for a week. That’s all I did for Kelvin, Southpaws, five rounds, for five days, and then I flew out to China, and I was just done. Emotionally, physically, mentally, I was just spent.”
Bisping captured the middleweight crown with a surprising first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 in June 2016. He then defended the title —and avenged an earlier defeat — with a five-round decision win over Dan Henderson at UFC 204 in Manchester. Having reached a career-long goal, Bisping isn’t looking to climb that mountain one more time before he calls it quits.
“I’m not looking to become champion again. I’m looking to finish off my career with a couple of fun fights,” Bisping said. “I went out there, I didn’t get the job done. I couldn’t give a f—k about rankings. I’m not trying to be the champion again. I had that, that was fun, it was a nice time in my life, I can always claim to have had that title, and now it’s time to move on with my life. I’m not saying I’m retiring.”
The losses to St. Pierre and Gastelum gave Bisping the first two-bout skid of his 39-fight professional tenure. “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner recognizes he’s in the twilight of his career, but the recent setbacks don’t define him. Bisping has previously targeted UFC Fight Night 127 in London on March 17 for what could be a farewell bout.
“I’m totally fine with it. I’m 38 years old. I’ve got a wife and kids. I’ve got other things I want to focus on in life. Will I do one more fight? Yeah, probably,” he said. “But that phase of my life now is done and I’m happy with that. . . You can’t fight forever. I was a champion, no one remains a champion forever, and I’m proud of that.”
While Bisping admits that he probably shouldn’t have taken the fight with Gastelum under the circumstances he did, there are ultimately no regrets regarding that decision.
“I felt great going into that fight, I did. Looking back in hindsight, was I overtrained and emotionally and physically tired? Yes I was, but the problem with having a f—-ing huge ego and thinking you can still beat people is that I knew that but I still thought I could beat Kelvin Gastelum,” he said. “Not taking anything away from him. He caught me with a beautiful left hook that put me down. God bless him.
“It was a big gamble, it didn’t pay off. Had it paid off it would have been great but that’s what you do. You roll the dice, you give it a shot, and you hope for the best, and the best man, I guess that was Kelvin so well done to him.”