When it was announced yesterday that Michael Bisping would fill in for an injured Mark Munoz in a number one contender’s bout against Chael Sonnen next weekend at UFC on FOX 2, many thought we would be treated to some verbal fireworks — something that has been seriously lacking in the lead-up to Sonnen vs. Munoz — before the pair entered the cage next weekend. After all, Sonnen and Bisping are two of the most abrasive trash talkers in the UFC.
Well, that doesn’t look to be the case, at least not yet. Speaking to USA Today, Sonnen surprisingly had nothing but good things to say about Bisping.
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.
Meanwhile, Michael Bisping is just grateful to get the opportunity to fight for a title shot.
Then “DANA WHITE” popped up on my caller ID. I picked it up and Dana said: “I got some good news for you … Mark Munoz is hurt, how’d you like to take his place and fight Chael for the No. 1 contender spot?”
Dana hadn’t even finished saying Munoz was out before I was planning how to beat Sonnen in my head. I’ve accepted fights on short notice for the UFC throughout my career, but this one is a massive, massive chance for me, and I am very grateful to Dana, (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva and the UFC. I was already hugely grateful to be asked to fight on FOX, but to fight Chael on FOX … well, there are hundreds of fighters who would kill for this opportunity, and I would have had to be a fool to turn it down.
Next week, I’m ready to go all guns blazing. A fight is a fight, and at this level anything can happen, but all things being equal, Chael Sonnen cannot knock me out. He can’t submit me, either. The worst that is going to happen is that he will outpoint me and, if I don’t beat him, I didn’t deserve a title shot against Anderson Silva anyway.
I suspect these two will turn up the heat as we draw closer to fight time, but there doesn’t seem to be any personal animosity to fuel the kind of entertaining back-and-forth exchanges some of us were hoping for.
As for the fight itself, oddsmakers are definitely leaning towards Sonnen emerging victorious next weekend. The first lines opened up at Sonnen (-450) Bisping (+325), making Sonnen a huge favorite. Considering how they match-up stylistically, I can’t say that’s very far off.
Images via Dave Mandel for Sherdog