Facing Sonnen a massive opportunity
Well, this is it! The biggest fight of my life, offered to me on 10 days notice: a No. 1 contender’s fight for the UFC middleweight title. Me against Chael Sonnen, who is one of the best-known fighters in the sport, live on FOX next Saturday night, Jan. 28. A huge fight, huge opportunity for me and my family.
I was due to fight Demian Maia, probably the most dangerous Brazilian Jiu-jitsu fighter in the division, if not the entire UFC, on the Chicago card. It was already a short-notice fight, just seven weeks after my fight in Las Vegas where I beat up Jason "Mayhem" Miller. But I was thrilled — honored, actually — to be asked by the UFC to be part of this huge event live on FOX.
Then I got a call Tuesday afternoon from UFC president Dana White. I was sitting down having some post-morning workout lunch, talking with my trainers about how well my BJJ defense was looking ahead of my UFC on FOX fight with Maia.
We were all rather pleased with how things were going; Maia is basically a 50-times-better version of Miller, but there are similarities. They are very similar fighters in style if not ability, and so the things I worked on for Miller set me up nicely for the Maia fight. I was drilling my submission defense like crazy, and was very confident of putting on a massive performance against Damien.
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.
I’m sure I’ll get blasted for this on the forums, but I feel I could have been the one fighting Chael anyway. We were due to be "The Ultimate Fighter" coaches against each other, but because of things outside our control it didn’t happen, and I’ve won a fight since. I don’t understand how Mark Munoz, as great as he’s been doing lately, was getting Chael instead of me. I feel bad for Mark, but I know he’ll come again and no doubt he will be right back in the mix in this very interesting 185-pound weight class.
I feel very sorry for Damien, too, as ours was a great matchup and I am sure he trained hard for me. He’s a class act as a fighter and a person, and I am glad he’s still getting a great fight and opportunity on FOX.
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.
But my performance against Miller in the opening round, where he held me down for three minutes, wasn’t good enough, and I will need to be better Saturday. I needed to be better than that if I was going to beat Maia, and I will need to be better than that to beat Chael.
UFC on FOX 2, featuring Michael Bisping vs. Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis, and Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman, will be LIVE on FOX at 8 p.m. ET, Jan. 28. Follow Bisping on Twitter @bisping.