Who Will Win UFC 249? Michael Bisping talks predictions, crowdless fights and the future of MMA
Interview With Mike Bisping Slightly Edited To Fit This Format
Question: Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje are set to be the Main Event for UFC 249, what stands out to you about this fight and what do you expect from each fighter?
“First of all a ton of respect to Tony Ferguson for taking this fight on such short notice... I’m not sure a lot of people would have done that. He had a shot at the undisputed title, was the interim champ, and we all know that got stripped. Now, he had a shot at Khabib and for that to be switched (of course, it’s not the UFC’s fault, it’s not Khabib’s fault, it’s just the circumstance) but for him to accept the change of opponent for the interim belt against someone as dangerous as Justin Gaethje... I feel that we need to recognize his balls for lack of a better word. It’s definitely a very ballsy move of Tony Ferguson and I feel like he needs to be respected for it. Justin Gaethje, as we all know, is an absolute knockout artist. I believe every one of the fights that he’s won has been by knockout and certainly, the last three fights that he’s won have been three sickening knockouts against James Vick, Barboza, and Ceronne. Especially the ones against Vick and Barboza those guys just crumpled and landed face down on the canvas.
It’s a difficult fight for Tony because as we know Khabib is a wrestler, he’s undefeated, and he’s just fantastic, but he doesn’t have the one-punch knockout power that Justin Gaethje posses. If Khabib was gonna win that fight, he would take Tony down, he would control him for a while, and he would look to wear him down. Then later in the fight, he would look to get a submission, a ground and pound stoppage, or even win by decision.
The problem for Khbib and why Tony was such a difficult fight, is Tony has a very good ground game. He’s a tenth plant Jiu-Jitsu black belt and (for anyone that knows jiu-jitsu) the particular style of Eddie Bravo at Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu is very tricky. I’ve got high-level jiu-jitsu but any time I rolled with a tenth planet guy it was always a nightmare they have a very funky unorthodox guard. They tie you up in all kinds of knots making it difficult to deal with and that’s what Tony does. So Khabib would’ve had a lot of problems meaning it wouldn’t have necessarily been Khabib in control. Tony may have submitted him, Tony may have tied it up or wound up sleeping him. He certainly would’ve been attacking with elbows off of his back.
With Justin Gaethje, Justin being the stronger wrestler even though he never uses it, I doubt this fight would hit the floor. I guarantee Tony used a ton of time working off his back working submissions working sweeps. A lot of the time would’ve been dedicated to working off his back. Well, all of that time and work will have to be thrown out of the window because none of that applies to Justin Gaejthe. Justin Gaejthe is going to stand in front of you he’s gonna chop you down with leg kicks and then look to knock you out with the hands.
It’s a very tough fight for Tony Ferguson, and it’s a massive stylistic change. So like I said, a ton of props to Tony Ferguson for taking this fight, for giving the people the entertainment, and iI can’t wait for it, it’s going to be a sensational fight.
Impact of a Crowdless Fight
Question: How does having no crowd impact the fighters mentally before and during the fight?
Any time you have a sold-out crowd it’s beneficial for most fighters and it certainly was for me… plus it’s just more fun. On the flip side, some people might have some anxiety and it could actually be beneficial. With that being said, when it’s all said and done it doesn’t matter about the crowd too much. I fought at both Madison Square Garden when it was sold out and also at the Ultimate Fighter when there was no crowd… it was just Dana White and a few officials in there. Whether it’s 20,000 people in an arena or 20 people in a small arena you’re still going to fight the same way because the consequences are the same. There’s another human being and trained martial artist in front of you trying to knock you out. So the motivation to win the contest/fight is the same. Obviously in combat sports, if you lose it can be painful because you don’t just lose… you’re losing a fight. You may be unconscious, you could be knocked out, and you could be bloodied and bruised. The motivation for winning the fight is still there even though it’s not as cool as when your family and friends are there. Ultimately though, when it’s all said and done it’s not much different.
Impact Of Less Crowd Noise On Judging
Question: What was it like commentating with no crowd and how could that impact the fight?
“Commentating in Brasilia with no crowd present was interesting because the crowd can sway the judges sometimes. For example, when I fought Wanderlai Silva in Sydney, Australia (and because of all the time Silva spent fighting in Australia) every time he would swing and almost connect the crowd would erupt. He wasn’t actually connecting and (although I might be biased) even though I clearly won that fight the judges gave it to Wanderlai Silva. I controlled the fight, I landed a lot of shots, I took him down, but every time he came close to connecting the crowd would erupt and that can sway the judges.
I was just down in Brazilia and remembered Benson Henderson was in the corner screaming at the top of his lungs “great” “nice” or “good punch” and I saw him at the airport the next morning. When I saw him I told him I knew what he was doing… he was influencing the judges by rewarding his fighter for landing a good shot, but more importantly, he was sending that message to the judges saying “hey my guy just landed on you there”. By doing this, if it goes to a judge’s scorecard his fighter has a better chance at winning the fight. So, yeah, there are some tactics that can be deployed but in other ways, it can be easier for the judge. There are fewer vocal distractions, fewer audio distractions, and the judges can pay attention to the job at hand. In addition, judges are able to hear all the grunting, the shots landing, and all the discomfort the fighters may be in on the floor.