Bisping: Henderson will be "eating leather!"
Story by Andreas Hale
Photo by Chris Cozzone
After witnessing team UK completely sweep the latest season of TUF, Michael Bisping must be salivating to complete the trifecta of British domination when he steps into the Octagon Saturday against opposing coach and MMA legend Dan Henderson. For Bisping, this fight means much more than defending his homeland pride. It’s much more than the Team USA coach vs the Team UK coach. “The Count” is facing his stiffest challenge yet and if he comes out victorious it could propel him into a title fight with the dangerous Anderson Silva by year’s end.
But standing in front of the young fighter with only one blemish on his record (via the former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans) is a mountain of a challenge. A man who is so decorated in the world of Mixed Martial Arts that no matter the outcome of Saturday’s fight he will go down as a Hall of Famer. Dan Henderson is accomplished and, strangely enough, that’s why Bisping thinks he can take him out.
“I put myself under ridiculous pressure, that’s why I train so hard and I’m so dedicated,” Bisping says after his final workout this week. “That’s going to be the difference in the fight. I’m hungrier and I trained harder.”
He definitely is a hungry fighter. After winning TUF season 3, Bisping has raced through opponents. Although the loss to Evans was a difficult one to digest, Bisping may have found a silver lining in a dark cloud as he moved down to middleweight and has stormed through the likes of Charles McCarthy (TKO), Jason Day (TKO) and Chris Leben (unanimous decision).
After being named as the coach of TUF season 9, Bisping watched as Henderson defeated Rich Franklin to become his opposing coach. Regardless of the fact that a MMA legend with mountains of experience was opposite him in coaching, Bisping’s team rumbled though Team USA with barely a blemish. All the while, “The Count” could be seen sizing up his UFC 100 opponent and made his presence felt with his constant barbs and verbal sparring. But truthfully, Bisping didn’t learn much about his opponent other than he’s his polar opposite when it comes to talking trash.
“From a fighting point I didn’t learn too much to be honest,” Bisping reveals. “We didn’t train together and I didn’t see any of his training. He’s a laid back guy and he’s a gentleman for the most part. He’s not a bad fellow. But I have to fight him in a few days and I’m going to kill him. That’s going to be a good quote ‘I’m going to kill him.’ He said a few things about me. He disrespected me a little bit. He disrespected my skills and previous opponents so I’m going to teach him a lesson on Saturday night.”
The Team UK sweep does give Bisping some extra confidence going into UFC 100 and –as he explains – showed that “The Count” is certainly the hungrier fighter.
“I suppose it did give me a small sense of confidence. I personally believe I had more of a personal investment in that than Dan Henderson did and I think that showed,” he says reflecting on the past season of TUF. “Most mornings I was at The Ultimate Fighter house at 7am running with those guys, making them breakfast and making sure they ate right. To be honest, it looked like Dan was pretty blahzay about the whole thing and I think that shows. Ultimately it’s the training.”
Some may be concerned with the amount of time Bisping has spent away from the Octagon. He defeated Chris Leben impressively back on October 18 of 2008. This means that when he steps into the Octagon with Henderson on July 11, 2009, it will have been nearly nine months since his last fight. Bisping sees the pros and cons of being away for so long and how it could affect him come Saturday night.
“It was difficult being off for so long. I’m a fighter and this is what I do,” he explains before looking on the other side of the coin. “I suppose it has been good exposure for my career and it was nice passing along some of my experience to the up and coming fighters from the UK. It gave me some time to work on a few areas of my game. So yeah, I haven’t fought in awhile but I’m coming back as a bigger and better version of myself.”
Training for this fight, Bisping does appear to be much improved in many areas and is prepared for what Henderson will bring to the table.
“He’s my stiffest test. But I don’t see too many things from Henderson that I have to worry about. He may take me down but I’ll just get back up. On the feet I feel like there’s no contest. Yeah he hits hard but I feel like I won’t have a problem connecting,” he says. “He’s going to try to take me down and he’s going to exhaust himself. And that’s fine because as soon as that clinch breaks, he’s going to be eating some leather.”
The one thing that does annoy Bisping is the fact that Henderson has slid in some snide comments about “The Count” that downplays his skill level and could be seen as probably underestimating his opponent. Bisping is visibly annoyed and plans on taking out his frustration on “Hendo” when that cage door closes on Saturday night.
“I take someone talking about my skills very personally. I’m very annoyed and that’s his mistake. I fight way better annoyed than I do calm. I hit harder. I’m faster and he’s going to pay the price.”