Michael Bisping: Does a Return to 205 Make Sense for the Count?
I'm almost always amused by the kinds of questions fighters tend to get during interviews leading up to fight night. Mostly because there seems to be a standard set of questions that everyone gets, no matter the actual situation.
One of those boilerplate questions always has to do with weight and whether the fighter in question is happy in his current weight class. Has he considered dropping down and becoming a faster version of himself while gaining a size advantage over the guys in that division? Have the limited options left for him at his current weight created a situation where he's considering going up?
It's one of the most-asked questions in fighter interviews, and it doesn't matter who the fighter is.
Case in point: Michael Bisping is getting ready to face Brian Stann next week at UFC 152. The winner could conceivably be in line for a middleweight title shot. Bisping is the slight favorite, and many folks believe he'll be too technical and precise for Stann. And yet he's getting questions about whether or not he's happy at middleweight and whether or not he is considering a move back to light heavyweight, where he started his career in the UFC.
“I think about it every time I want to eat pizza and can’t,” Bisping said recently during an online chat hosted by MMAWeekly.com content partner Yahoo! Sports.“But seriously, I do think about it. I was 15-1 at 205 pounds, but 185 pounds is where I should be right now.”
It seems like a ridiculous notion, at least on the surface. Bisping is nearing the top of the middleweight division, and a win over Stann could finally earn him that long-awaited shot at the gold. Why would he even consider the idea of moving back to light heavyweight, especially right now? It doesn't make a lot of sense.
But what if Bisping loses to Stann? He goes tumbling back down the middleweight ladder, facing a situation where he'd probably have to win three consecutive fights in order to get a title shot. If I'm Bisping in that situation, I'd probably be looking at a light heavyweight division that's been virtually cleaned out by Jon Jones and thinking that, well, it'd probably be easier to get back in the mix there than it would be at middleweight. By virtue of his name value alone, Bisping would probably have a better shot at an early title fight.
But is it a wise move? I don't think so. It might be better for his pocketbook—and perhaps that's all he cares about at this point—but it's probably not good for his career from a larger perspective.
Bisping was a serviceable light heavyweight, going 4-0 in the weight class before running into Rashad Evans back at UFC 78. Bisping might have rebounded from that Evans loss and become a better version of what he was before. Maybe he would've eventually contended for a championship.
But he didn't, because Bisping decided that he was undersized at the weight and moved down. He became a faster, more precise and just plain better version of what he was at 205 pounds, where he barely had to cut weight and, as a result, almost always went in the cage as the smaller man.
That hasn't changed. If anything, the size difference between Bisping and the rest of the middleweight division is much more prominent than the days when Chuck Liddell ruled the division. Jones is a hulking man, a fighter who can really only make light heavyweight because his legs are much smaller than the rest of his body. Even if Bisping were somehow able to put himself in title contention, he'd still run into the same problem he did during his initial light heavyweight run: He'd simply be much too small to compete with the best.
But perhaps competing isn't the main thing that drives Bisping forward. Maybe he's reached that point in his career, like so many do, where pulling in the biggest paycheck possible is the only goal. If that's the case, then another light heavyweight run might make sense. Potential matches with Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida and a rematch with Evans would help pad Bisping's pocketbook, but they would say nothing of a title fight with Jones if Bisping were able to scratch and claw his way there.
None of this matters. Not yet, anyway. Bisping can avoid all of the questions about changing weight classes and the difficult decisions he'd have to make by beating Stann, and by doing so emphatically.
But what happens if he doesn't beat Stann? What happens if Stann goes in the cage and, using that powerful right hand, knocks Bisping out the way Dan Henderson did back at UFC 100?
If that happens, Bisping would face some weighty decisions, indeed.
But hey, at least he'll get to eat pizza on a regular basis again. That alone might be enough of a reason to make the move up.
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