Anyone hoping middleweight Chael Sonnen will start an epic bout of trash talking with Michael "The Count" Bisping might find themselves let down.
"I'm a Bisping supporter," Sonnen says. "I'm not on the anti-Bisping bandwagon. I never have been."
By Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Bisping replaces the injured Mark Munoz as an opponent for Sonnen in the co-main of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's Jan. 28 show in Chicago. The winner will face champion Anderson Silva later this year.
USA TODAY spoke to Sonnen on Tuesday, minutes after UFC announced the change in opponents. Excerpts from the conversation:
What was your reaction when you first heard that Mark Munoz was injured?
I don't know if had a reaction. I don't like to hear anybody being hurt, in the ring, outside of the ring. So I wasn't happy about it
I hope he's ok. I hope it's a matter of "Take a little ice and a couple of Tylenol and you'll be back," but I don't know the extent of it. I'm not a doctor.
Do you think Bisping has earned the right to fight for a title shot?
I'm a Bisping supporter. I think he has. I think he's fought a lot of important matches.
I don't know how tough the guys he fought were, how many ranked guys he had -- I'm not terribly familiar with his record. But at the end of the day, you can say what you want about his opponents, he doesn't pick his opponents. They pick his opponents and he goes in and he wins over and over again.
I think it's really relevant, especially for the Bisping naysayers, to realize he's fighting main-event fights. He's carrying cards. He's selling out arenas. In this industry, that's huge. He's done his part.
So I'm not on the anti-Bisping bandwagon. I never have been.
When you think about the way he generally fights, do you think for you he's a more difficult or easier opponent than Mark Munoz?
I think there's a couple of guys on the roster who I sit back and look at and think, "Geez, I'd just as soon not have to fight that guy," purely based on style. Purely based where you look at and go, "I'm not just not sure what I would do."
Munoz is one of those guys. There's other guys, and I've gotten locked in there with those guys. Paulo Filho was one of those guys. (Yushin) Okami was one of those guys. (Nate) Marquardt was one of those guys. Where I look at them and I go, "I don't know what I'm going to do here."
But you accept the challenge all the same, and you go out there and you figure it out. Munoz was on that list. So mentally, in my mind, I think Munoz is a real fierce competitor.
But I don't have a lot of ill will towards Bisping's skills either. I watch him, and like I said, more than anything, I watch him over and over again.
In some ways, Bisping's about as far from Munoz stylistically as you can get. How concerned are you about being able to adjust your game plan so close to the fight?
I've never done that. I've never had a game plan. I don't fully know what it means. I hear the term, especially in boxing, I hear guys talk about their plan or refer fighting to a game or whatever. I've never done that. I've never been part of that. I don't really know what it means fully.
So I don't care. I don't care about that at all.
I'm not ready yet. If you were to call me and say, "Hey, Chael, are you ready to go?" I'd say, "No, I'm not." But the good news is, I don't have to go today. The fight's a little bit down the line and there's still time to prepare and zero in. ... I've got enough time to do, but I've got just enough time. It's right around the corner.
My focus is on me. It's not on whoever they put across from me.
Given that Bisping tends to keep his fights standing, how likely are we to see a repeat of your approach in the Brian Stann fight?
You never know. I don't ever plan for those things.
With the Stann fight, I felt, "Well, if there's an opportunity to take him down, maybe I can score some points from down there." But I didn't know if I could take him down. I wasn't confident in it. So you always look at plan B or plan C, what's going to happen next if this doesn't happen.
That's the way my mind works. I kind of jump around a little bit and I do that in an attempt to be prepared for whatever may come at me.
There becomes a big confusion, like somebody will see me fight and say, "This guy really likes to do these two things." And somebody will watch Mike fight and say, "These are the things that Mike likes to do."
Well, the reality is, we do them because we can get away with them. But as soon as we can't get away with them, that's when you're going to start to see, "Oh, there's a lot more. There's a lot more in the tank. There's a lot more in the arsenal."
That's what I meant. If something opens up, great. But if it doesn't, we've got to adapt too. I'm not a one-trick pony out there; I'm the best fighter in the world. And I'm the best fighter in the world because I can fight anywhere.
What did you think of Bisping's fight with Jason "Mayhem" Miller?
I didn't get to see it. I feel like I saw it. I feel like I could tell you all about it because I read so much and I saw so much. Some of the guys that represent Mayhem, I also work with. So I feel like I can know a lot about it.
I think in fairness, even though Bisping went out and did his job, I think maybe Mayhem made it a little bit easier on him. I don't think Mayhem fought top notch that night. That's the reports that I'm hearing.
But who cares? Again, I get all these naysayers about Bisping, but the bottom line is, he wins. He goes out and he wins his fights. He should be credited for that.
How would you describe Bisping as a fighter? What jumps out about his style?
I think he's real active. I think if he had a strength, it would be the fact that he'll go hard. He'll fight hard the whole time. He's been in some real donnybrooks that have come down to the last moments of the last round, and he's able to continue fighting. While other guys are fading, he's still pushing. I think he's a very tough guy in that regard.
I think he's good. I hear a lot of negative things said about him, but I think most of it comes from frustration of maybe his personality or something like that. I think if you're real objective and you look at his skillset and his in-ring ability, you'll know that he's a talented guy.
You just mentioned his personality -- why do you think so many people dislike him, and on the flip side, why don't you?
I can only guess. He appears to be a little bit brash. He's definitely cocky and arrogant, which is two qualities that I like in a person. I like a cocky guy and I like an arrogant guy, so he earns points with me in those regards, but I think it turns a lot of people off.
I don't really know. When you get a guy that's out there demanding title shots and you look at his list of accomplishments, you kind of go on, "Who'd you beat? Why do you think you deserve that shot?" And so it gets a little bit confusing in those regards.
But again, I'm a defender of Bisping. ... He doesn't get to pick his opponent. They pick his opponent. He fights them all and at the end of the day, he beats them all.
I don't have his record in front of me, but I think outside of the (Dan) Henderson loss, I'm not sure he's ever been beat in the UFC. I believe they gave Wanderlei (Silva) a win over him, which was possibly the right call, possibly not; I know there was some controversy around it.
But I've never even seen Bisping in trouble. I've never seen him come out of there cut and scraped and bruised. He seems to go in, take care of business and go home.
Do you think Bisping could beat Anderson Silva?
Almost any statement can be true if you include the word "could." I wouldn't pick him to beat him. I think match-up wise, it may not be that favorable of a stylistic match, but I don't know.
I'll tell you this: If you want to make a lot of money; if you want to quit your day job and really make a lot of money -- you should ask me before every fight who's going to win, and then you should bet heavily on the opposite. I am the single-worst fight picker. It drives my mother crazy. My mom says it's like I know nothing about the sport.
I can give you a perfect example. I took (Anthony) "Rumble" Johnson and I took Chad Mendes just over the weekend. So it shows you what I know.
I don't like the way Bisping talks. I don't like the way a lot of these guys talk when it comes to Anderson. They all want to talk about their shot, their shot, their shot.
I don't want a shot. I've never asked Dana White for a shot at the title. I want the title, there's a tremendous difference between my mindset and everybody else's.
If you want your name in lights and you want that one big paycheck, go out and get your shot. I don't want either. I've got plenty of money. I've got plenty of notoriety. What I don't have is a 12-pound gold belt reminding me each day that I'm the baddest man God ever made. So that's what I'm after and that's what sets me apart from everybody else.
But again -- I'm a supporter of Bisping. I'm a supporter of him getting his shot. I think he's done the right things. I think he fought the people they asked him to fight. He did it in main-event status, main-event fashion. He's fought the five-round fights, whether he ended up using all the five rounds or not. He signed the contract and he went out and did it.
I'm not a naysayer, man. I'm a supporter of Bisping.
How do you decide which fighters deserve your support and which ones deserve your disdain?
First off, I never go after anybody unless he's on top.
When I started on the Nogueira brothers -- and of course, I leave them alone now; I don't take any pleasure in them falling from grace, or certainly the big one having to go through an injury; that brings me no pleasure at all. But when I started on them, they were supposedly this untouchable pair, fighters of fighters, men's men. And I'm looking at it going, "No, you're not."
It's the same thing with Wanderlei Silva. I don't taking any pleasure in kicking Wanderlei now, now that the word's out that he's yesterday's news.
But at the time when I started picking on him, it's because nobody else would. A guy puts a tattoo on the back of his skull, puts his beady eyes on you and rolls his wrists around, and all of a sudden the whole world thinks that's scary. That doesn't do anything for me. I'll slap you right on your face while you're rolling your wrists around. My point wasn't so much to attack Wanderlei, as it was to let the rest of the world know, "Who cares? Who cares about his tattoo and his beady eyes and his rolly little wrists?
That's really where it started with Anderson too. Anderson became this untouchable guy. I've got to walk around in the back at the UFC and watch fellow fighters ask him for his autograph, and it makes my stomach sick.
If you're going to be a fighter in the UFC, you need to be fighting for one reason, and that is the championship. If the day comes when I realize that I just can't reach that championship, I'm out. I'm not going to stick around for a paycheck or for the applause of the crowd. I'm not in it for that. I'm in it for the championship, the one and only reason you should be in this sport.
So my disdain doesn't necessarily go to the fighters. It goes to fighters that refuse to fight the fighters.
Looks like Chael's got his Dr. Jekyyl face on today. Most bipolar fighter ever. When he's not trolling he actually makes some sense.