Georges St-Pierre respects Michael Bisping for quick turnaround, criticizes UFC for allowing it

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Georges St-Pierre praised Michael Bisping but questioned the UFC for the fight with Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 122 that took place just three weeks after “Rush” claimed the UFC middleweight title from Bisping.

St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) beat Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) by third-round submission at UFC 217 in early November to win the 185-pound belt. Bisping agreed to fight Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) as a replacement for Anderson Silva just three weeks later, and the result was a brutal first-round knockout loss.

After the contest there was a wide range of opinions on Bisping’s quick turnaround and whether he should have been allowed back in the octagon so soon after being dropped and choked unconscious by St-Pierre. Several fighters criticized the UFC, and longtime commentator Joe Rogan called it a “crazy” decision. St-Pierre has only positive things to say about “The Count” from a personal standpoint took umbrage with the fighter safety aspect.

“That was not a good thing to do medically,” St-Pierre said in an interview with TSN in Canada. “He took a big risk, and I respect that. He took a big risk. If he would have succeed, he would have been like a hero. ‘Oh my God, he just lost the title and came back with zero preparation, boom he wins a fight.’ I think he tried to do something that was very, very risky.

“At the time if he would have achieved it, it would have been a very big reward for him. I can respect that. I can respect the idea that he had, the goal he had doing that. However, I believe for the UFC it was not good to let an athlete fight after getting concussed in a fight for the world title and then getting choked out. I don’t think it was medically a good thing for the UFC.”

UFC President Dana White said recently that he had no regrets about booking Bisping for two event headliners in a 21-day span. Bisping originally said he had no regrets, either, but as time wore he’s admitted he made an impulsive choice that wasn’t in his best interest.

St-Pierre understands why Bisping would make the decision, and although it didn’t work out in his favor, he said he can relate to Bisping’s thought-process.

“For Michael, as a fighter, I understand his point of view,” St-Pierre said. “He wanted to turn around the table, and he wanted to do something that was special. I can understand that. Myself coming back after four years, it was a risk, and I wanted to do something special and succeed, and I did it. Unfortunately for Michael, it failed. But I can respect that from a man.”

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Luke Rockhold vs. Robert Whittaker? Kelvin Gastelum gets out in front to make his case

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If Luke Rockhold is next for Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum has something to say.

Word around the campfire is that former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold may get the call to take on current interim champ Robert Whittaker in the new year.

With that potential in mind, Gastelum already has something to say on his own behalf – and it’s hard to argue with his math.

Less than two weeks ago, Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) knocked out former champ Michael Bisping in the UFC Fight Night 122 main event.

Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) almost immediately made the case for a fight with Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) after his win. But after Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) beat David Branch in September in his first fight in 16 months, he made his own case to fight Whittaker.

Whittaker thought he’d most likely be fighting the Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre winner to unify the belts. But with St-Pierre dealing with colitis and unsure when he’ll fight again, let alone if it’ll be at 185 pounds, Whittaker is going to want to compete.

So before any potential Rockhold-Whittaker fight can get booked, Gastelum today posted on Twitter that the matchup would be a mistake.

He posted two scenarios – one for Rockhold, and one for himself:

“A: Fought only once in 18 months against someone who wasnt even competing in the ufc a year ago.

“B: Fought 4 times in 12 months, 3 of them in the main event in the last 8 months against former champions ranked in top 10 of the division. *Doesn’t have a modeling career.”

After Rockhold lost the title at UFC 199 in June 2016 to Bisping, he was on the shelf till his UFC Fight Night 116 win over former two-division champ Branch.

Over just about the same time frame as Rockhold’s title loss and follow-up win, Gastelum has had five fights, coing 3-1 with a no-contest.

He beat former welterweight champ Johny Hendricks at UFC 200 in a 170-pound matchup. Then he returned to middleweight and beat Tim Kennedy and Vitor Belfort by TKO, though the Belfort win was thrown out due to a drug test failure for marijuana.

Gastelum lost to Chris Weidman in July, but rebounded with a bit knockout of Bisping in the UFC Fight Night 122 headliner. He has fought in three straight main events and four of his past five opponents were former UFC champions.

So what do you think? Who would you rather see fight Whittaker for his interim middleweight title? Rockhold, or Gastelum? Let us know in the poll below.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Take Our Poll
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Source: MMA Junkie

USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings, Nov. 28: As Askren exits, Gastelum climbs

With a victory in his career finale, Ben Askren has exited the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings.

The undefeated ONE Championship titleholder, who was ranked No. 7 at welterweight, defeated Shinya Aoki this past weekend in is retirement fight. With his fighting career now (seemingly) over, Askren exits the top 15.

Also this past weekend, Kelvin Gastelum got a major boost up the middleweight ranks with a knockout of ex-champ Michael Bisping.

Check out all of the rankings above.

 

Filed under: AXS TV Fights, Bellator, MMA Rankings, News, PFL, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Trading Shots: How will we remember Michael Bisping once he's gone?

After a loss at UFC Fight Night 122 in Shanghai, Michael Bisping said he still plans to fight one more time and then call it quits. But how will we remember him once he’s gone? And what are the odds he changes his mind about leaving when the time comes? Former UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss in this week’s Trading Shots.

Downes: Ben, while you were out this week trying to unionize the Turkey Bowl participants or reminding your relatives there was no pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving, Michael Bisping was preparing for a fight. The former champ returned on short notice to fight Kelvin Gastelum and wound up losing by first-round knockout.

You’ve already discussed the wisdom of creating this fight, so I’m not interested in hearing you regurgitate the same talking points. Instead, I want to look at the big picture.

Where do we place Bisping in the pantheon of MMA fighters? He achieved his goal of a UFC title late in his career, but many consider that a fluke. His only title defense was against Dan Henderson, who was not exactly a top contender at the time. He then lost his title to Georges St-Pierre, a career welterweight. Now, he’s been knocked out by a fighter who, as Chris Weidman correctly pointed out, is probably too small for the division.

Will people look fondly on “The Count’s” career once he decides to hang the gloves up? He’s made himself wealthy by making people hate him, but does that mean fans will never be able to truly appreciate him?

Fowlkes: I suspect that it might be easier for fans to appreciate Bisping once he’s gone. It’s not just fans, either. I think even some of his peers will have an easier time admitting that he was actually a good fighter once he’s not in their faces insisting on it so regularly.

He’s had a hell of a career, when you think about it. At one point he had the sole record for total UFC wins. He claimed the UFC middleweight title extremely late in his career (and right when USADA got involved). He’s beaten some greats, and he always answered the call to fight (though with a little more frequency when he didn’t have the title).

But more than anything, I think he’ll be remembered as one of the great overachievers in MMA history. How else did a guy like him – someone who’s not a knockout artist, not a submissions expert, not a powerhouse wrestler or ground-and-pound grinder – win so many freaking fights?!

He did it with the force of his will and his cardio and his all-around game and his willingness to suffer for his art, when necessary.

What I can’t help but wonder now, especially after this most recent loss, is whether he’s going to end up paying a heavy price for all that years down the road. Two fights in three weeks when you’re 38? Plus another one in a few months, added to the damage he’s already taken? Am I the only one a little worried about the consequences of all that?

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Downes: There’s this narrative out there that MMA fighters are short-sighted and don’t see the big picture. Additionally, there’s the idea that they lack the intelligence to understand the ramifications of their decisions.

We run through this every time we’re eager to push an aging fighter out the door. There’s this odd paternal tendency among fans and media who assume they know better than the fighters themselves. I get it to a certain extent, but how come these same people don’t apply this criteria to their own lives?

I understand why you’d ask about the long-term consequences of his choices, but I wonder how much you use this decades-long cause-and-effect analysis in your own life. Do you wonder about the consequences in 2039 about the hamburger you ate this week? Did you know that the average lifespan of a Labrador is 10-14 years? In that case, why even have a dog? You have two daughters. What about the sea levels when they’re nearing retirement?!?

Bisping is no Shinryu Suzuki, but maybe, just maybe, he was living for the moment. He may have done it for the money. He may have done it because he was mad about the “GSP” fight. He may have done it because he always wanted to visit Shanghai. Whatever the motivation, it doesn’t matter.

He didn’t care about the nebulous idea of “legacy,” and I think that’s something to applaud. Worrying about your legacy as a fighter is like worrying about your Instagram posts on a family vacation. You’re spending too much time focusing on a tangential, unnecessary thing that it detracts from the moment at hand. My son’s first steps aren’t caught on video. I also didn’t miss them with my face behind an iPhone.

People will debate Bisping’s place among the UFC greats. They might detract from his title reign and career in general. People on Twitter will send him a GIF of Dan Henderson dropping that UFC 100 forearm every day of his life. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t really matter. Whether you were rooting for his downfall or triumph, he’s entertained us for over a decade. Can you fit that on a win/loss record?

Fowlkes: Did you seriously just compare eating a hamburger to staying too long in an inherently violent sport that can leave people permanently brain damaged? I guess you did. I guess you also compared fighting in MMA to climate change, so at least we’re keeping it all in perspective.

Bisping became a fighter because he loved it, sure, but also because he hoped to make money at it, which he has. He also held out for the “GSP” fight not just because he wanted to face an MMA legend, but because he wanted to ensure his family’s financial future.

What I’m saying is, what good is all that money if you stick around too long and break your brain? Look at the NFL players who have retired with money and business interests, only to meet with a bad end a few years later because of symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy? And it’s not just the brain that’s at risk.

This sport is a health gamble every single time you get in that cage. There has to be a point where you’re better off pushing away from the table. There has to be a point where the payoff no longer justifies the risks.

You say legacy doesn’t matter to Bisping (though, the way he was just talking about Silva’s legacy after that second failed drug test suggests that it’s at least on his mind), but enjoying his retirement in one piece surely matters.

As for how we view him once he’s gone, I don’t think there’s that much riding on this one last fight he says he wants in March. Hopefully the UFC gives him someone around his age, someone who’s not actually a title contender, and hopefully – win or lose – he sticks to his plan to retire once it’s over.

His legacy as a tough, fiery competitor who loved to fight and made the most of the talent he had? That’s mostly set at this point. The only way to screw it up is to add an element of cautionary tale by hanging around too long.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Joe Rogan criticizes Michael Bisping's 'crazy' turnaround: 'It just does not make sense'

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Add longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan to the list of people who doesn’t understand the logic behind booking Michael Bisping in another main event fight just three weeks after his title loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217.

In a move that came as a stunner to most, Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) accepted a UFC Fight Night 122 headlining spot against Kelvin Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) just 21 days after suffering a third-round submission loss to St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) at UFC 217 in New York City. The fight didn’t go his way. “The Count” suffered a first-round knockout loss on Saturday’s UFC Fight Pass-streamed card at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

Bisping dismissed all medical concerns leading up to the fight. He insisted that he’d undergone additional testing and had received clearance from a doctor without issue, but after tasting Gastelum’s power and succumbing to a big knockout, discussion flared up about whether Bisping should have ever been in the octagon in China.

UFC color-commentator Rogan weighed in on the subject on Episode No. 2 of the “JRE MMA Show” podcast, and he admitted he’s uncomfortable by the situation.

“I don’t think you should be allowed to fight three weeks after you have a brutal fight like Michael Bisping did with GSP,” Rogan said. “He got rocked, he got choked unconscious, and then three weeks later he’s fighting a really dangerous up-and-coming Kelvin Gastelum? Kelvin is a beast. He’s got nasty boxing and that’s what he showed in that fight. He hit him with a beautiful straight jab and a right hand behind it. That kid is just on fire. He’s on another level right now.”

Although Rogan said he was “super, super impressed” by the swiftness of Gastelum’s victory against the former 185-pound champion, he does have some questions about how much the circumstances played into the result.

It’s difficult to determine to what extent the fastest turnaround of Bisping’s more than 11-year UFC career actually had on his performance, but Rogan said it’s certainly a legitimate angle to deliberate.

“Would he have been able to do that if he fought the Bisping who was training for Georges St-Pierre?” Rogan said. “If Bisping did not have the Georges St-Pierre fight and just went right into the Kelvin Gastelum fight, would the same result have happened? It very well could have. The way Kelvin hits, he’s fast as (expletive); his hands are beautiful.”

Ultimately, Rogan said the blame for Bisping competing at UFC Fight Night 122 should be spread across multiple parties. As the fighter, it’s hard to put the entirety of the spotlight on Bisping for what happened. His family, trainers, management and even the UFC have an obligation to aid a fighter through a decision-making process when they cannot objectively do it themselves.

In that instances, the people around Bisping likely failed him. The narrative would have been very different had “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner come out and beat Gastelum in the short-notice affair, but that’s not how it unfolded. Bisping entered the cage and suffered a record-setting 12th knockdown in UFC competition, and while he almost certainly made a sound payday for doing so, the potential negative effects could outweigh the financial gains.

“You really have to protect the fighter from themselves,” Rogan said. “You really can’t be letting a guy fight three weeks after a brutal fight like that. It just does not make sense. I don’t think it’s smart. I understand the UFC needed someone to fill in on short notice because Anderson Silva tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and they did not want to lose the Shanghai main event. It turns into an even bigger fight when you’ve got the former middleweight champion right off his loss.

“Three weeks later fight again? It’s just not smart. I know Bisping wanted to do it, I know Bisping would probably do it again. If you asked Bisping to fight in a few weeks he would probably do it again. Someone was talking about him fighting in England, probably in March. Boy, that’s less crazy, but still, crazy. We’re basically into December.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Kelvin Gastelum and UFC Fight Night 122's other winning fighters?

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UFC Fight Night 122 took place Saturday, and the four-fight main card from Mercedes-Benz Arena, which streamed on UFC Fight Pass, has to be deemed a success.

Three of the four bouts on the main card ended inside the distance, but no win was more emphatic than the main event in which Kelvin Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) put away former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) with strikes inside the first round.

Prior to Gastelum’s win, Chinese fighters Li Jingliang (14-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and Wang Guan (17-1-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) put on impressive performances, while Alex Garcia (15-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) opened the main card with a submission finish.

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 122’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Alex Garcia

Peter Sobotta

Should fight: Peter Sobotta
Why they should fight: Garcia is pushing for a quick turnaround, ideally at UFC on FOX 26 in Winnipeg in December, after his upset submission win over touted promotional newcomer Muslim Salikhov.

Garcia spoiled Salikhov’s octagon debut with a second-round submission to help him bounce back from a loss in his previous bout. Garcia has alternated wins and losses over his past seven contests, and until he bucks that trend, he’s not going to be able to move up much in the welterweight pecking order.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of credible competition on the same level as Garcia at this time. Sobotta (17-5-1 MMA, 4-4 UFC), who is on a solid 4-1 run since returning to the UFC for a second stint more than three years ago, is well rounded and dangerous. His style meshes with Garcia’s powerful approach and the winner would be sitting in a good spot at 170 pounds.

Wang Guan

Chas Skelly

Should fight: Chas Skelly
Why they should fight: Guan showed why there was a lot of discussion and excitement around his UFC debut when he put his powerful hands on display over three rounds to take a unanimous decision over Alex Caceres.

Although he came close on multiple occasions, Guan couldn’t finish the featherweight fight. He still put a beating on an 18-fight UFC veteran in Caceres over three rounds, though, and that’s certainly not a bad look for an octagon debut.

With just one loss thus far in his 19-fight career, Guan has the style and poise which would make him a compelling matchup for many featherweights. It’s too soon for him to be fighting the biggest names at 145 pounds, but another notable, established member of the UFC roster like Skelly (17-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) would be helpful in further marking his UFC presense.

Li Jingliang

Alan Jouban

Should fight: Alan Jouban
Why they should fight: The most successful Chinese fighter in UFC history continued to roll when Jingliang extended his winning streak to four fights with a second-round TKO of Zak Ottow.

Jingliang’s run has been impressive to watch, and it’s clear “The Leech” is adding to his skillset and gaining confidence with every bout. He’s a sturdy, powerful welterweight who is not going to be an easy out for anyone, but now it’s time to find out where he stacks up against a more honest level of competition.

Jouban (15-6 MMA, 6-4 UFC) might be coming off a pair of losses, but he’s shared the octagon with some of the best at 170 pounds. His size and length would be a difficult matchup for Jingliang, but if he could continue of his run of success through Jouban, he would be in position to start getting contender fights in his division.

Kelvin Gastelum

Should fight: Ronaldo Souza
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Gastelum should fight “Jacare” Souza (24-5 MMA, 7-2 UFC) next

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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The MMA Road Show with John Morgan No. 139.5 – Shanghai: UFC Fight Night 122 recap featuring Gastelum, Magomedsharipov, Chang

Episode No. 139.5 of “The MMA Road Show with John Morgan” podcast is now available for streaming and download.

MMAjunkie lead staff reporter John Morgan hosts the show while traveling the world to cover the sport.

Following a memorable night in China, John Morgan recaps all the action that took place in and out of the cage at UFC Fight Night 122. Along the way, hear from main event winner Kelvin Gastelum, fast-rising contender Zabit Magomedsharipov and UFC exec Kevin Chang.

Listen below, or check it out on iTunes or at themmaroadshow.com. You can also subscribe via RSS.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Michael Bisping's two stoppage losses in three weeks leave UFC with one big question

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For the second time in three weeks, Michael Bisping made the long, lonely walk to the octagon for a UFC main event. Also for the second time in three weeks, he got hit with a hard left hand that took his legs out from under him, with defeat following close behind.

The second one was a lot harder to watch than the first, but that’s at least in part because the memory of the first one was still so fresh.

We all saw Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) get dropped by Georges St-Pierre’s left hand at UFC 217 in New York City. Then those of us who either stayed up late or woke up early saw him get wiped out by Kelvin Gastelum’s (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) left at UFC Fight Night 122 in Shanghai, and it was hard not to feel like the two events were in some way connected.

For starters, there’s the question of how he got there. Bisping received a 30-day medical suspension from the New York State Athletic Commission after his loss at UFC 217 earlier this month.

But as officials from both the UFC and the New York commission told MMAjunkie, at some point (and neither provided an exact date) that suspension was decreased from 30 days to seven.

And that’s how, just 21 days after losing the UFC middleweight title, Bisping was free and clear to fight again at an event where the UFC essentially acted as its own regulator.

Was it safe? Well, no, but nothing about getting hit in the head over and over again is ever safe. An extra nine days’ rest may not have made much difference to Bisping’s long-term brain health, and anyway these post-fight medical suspensions are usually somewhat arbitrary.

According to Dr. John Stiller, a neurologist who serves as the chief medical officer for the Maryland State Athletic Commission, “there is no test (or) observations that can definitively determine (whether or not) short and long-term risks are increased in any given athlete by returning to further head traumas earlier than dictated by the suspension.”

In any words, while doctors know it’s probably not great to group your brain traumas too close together, there’s no way to determine in advance when it’s bound to be especially bad. And hey, Bisping said he felt fine, so why not, right?

At the same time, it’s precisely this type of scenario that UFC President Dana White once prided himself on avoiding. Back in 2013, White explained that MMA was safer than pro football in large part because of the time between contests.

“First of all, if you get a concussion, if you get knocked out or you get hurt whatsoever in the UFC, three months suspension,” White said. “You are on suspension for three months, and you cannot come back until you are cleared by a doctor. You can’t have any contact whatsoever. In the NFL, you’re not going to lose Tom Brady for three months, man. You lose Tom Brady for three months, and your whole season is wiped out.”

Of course, you lose Anderson Silva to a drug test and can’t tap Bisping to fill in, maybe your whole fight night is wiped out just as easily.

But if you think any of it worries Bisping, think again. He still wants to fight one more time early next year. His toughness is still just as intact as his competitive fire, and as he so eloquently put it just minutes after being hauled up from the canvas, “Kelvin is a great guy, but it’s going to take a bigger pile of (expletive) than him to get rid of me.”

Which, of course, forces us to ask what it will take. Another knockout? Another win? Is Bisping the kind of guy who can tell himself just one more and really mean it?

After the November he’s had, you can’t help but hope so. It gets harder and harder to watch when the next blow lands while the last still echoes in our collective memory. And while we can’t necessarily say when it’s too much, we ought to be able to say when it’s enough.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Ex-UFC champ Michael Bisping still plans to retire in London in March

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SHANGHAI – A brutal knockout loss to Kelvin Gastelum hasn’t changed former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping’s plans for retirement. He still plans to call it a career on home soil in March.

“Kelvin’s a great guy, but unfortunately, it’s going to take a bigger pile of (expletive) than him to get rid of me,” Bisping jokingly told UFC commentator Jon Anik after his short-notice loss in the headliner of UFC Fight Night 122, which took place Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China, and streamed live on UFC Fight Pass.

Anik had asked whether Gastelum’s (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) win might shelve the ex-champ’s desire to fight at UFC Fight Night 127, which takes place March 17 at The O2 in London. The knockout loss marked the second time in three weeks Bisping (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) had been sent to the canvas after losing his belt in a third-round technical submission loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217.

But even before the translator could get to work, Bisping nodded and affirmed he would press on. Given the opportunity to make a farewell speech, he instead congratulated his opponent and thanked his teammates, family and countrymen.

“I just want to say congratulations to Kelvin Gastelum,” he said. “Job well done tonight – thank you all for being here. I was enjoying myself. He caught me with a good shot. God bless Kelvin. He’s young. I’ve been doing this for a long time, man. I’m getting old. God bless you all for being here. Thank you.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be Bisping if that message didn’t come with a sarcastic aside. For a fighter as accustomed to naysayers as comebacks, it was another sign that the brash Brit will go out on his terms alone.

After losing to St-Pierre, Bisping took a risky fight with Gastelum by filling in for Anderson Silva and said it wouldn’t be his last trip to the octagon. Only a homecoming would suffice. As it turns out, nothing has changed.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC Fight Night 122's Kelvin Gastelum: Robert Whittaker and I should fight for undisputed belt

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SHANGHAI – Surging UFC middleweight Kelvin Gastelum confidently declared he isn’t waiting for newly minted champ Georges St-Pierre.

“I’m here to focus on my career and get where I need to be, which is the middleweight title,” Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) said after knocking out recently disposed titleholder Michael Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) in the headliner of UFC Fight Night 122, which took place Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and streamed live on UFC Fight Pass.

Gastelum, who agreed to fight Bisping on short notice when ex-champ Anderson Silva failed a drug test, thinks the UFC should skip the waiting period and move on the belt right now.

“‘GSP’ said it himself – anything can happen in the sport of MMA,” said Gastelum, citing St-Pierre’s noncommittal plans for the future after winning the belt earlier this month at UFC 217. “I feel like Robert Whittaker and I should be next. We’re two young guys; we haven’t even hit our prime yet. I just beat the guy who was the guys, so I feel I should be next.”

Whittaker claimed the interim belt in July with a decision over Yoel Romero, setting up a title unifier with the winner of Bisping vs. St-Pierre. But Gastelum claimed after his win that Whittaker is in need of an opponent for UFC 221, a pay-per-view event on Feb. 11 in Australia, hinting the new champ isn’t returning any time soon.

With a win over Bisping, Gastelum thinks he’s earned the opportunity to step into the picture. Although he furrowed his brow and gave a gruff answer when asked to react to online comments that he won because of Bisping’s age, he turned them to his advantage in requesting a meeting with Whittaker.

“You guys say I beat up all the elderly, and Robert Whittaker is definitely not elderly – I think he’s probably my age,” Gastelum said. “So I’m up for the challenge.”

Already, Gastelum is jockeying for position with others chomping at the bit for a title shot. Ex-champ Chris Weidman, who handed Gastelum his first loss at middleweight in July, downplayed the “TUF 17” winner’s victory over Bisping.

While Gastelum has stumbled in previous high-profile opportunities, his win over Bisping could turn things around quickly.

“I trained for this, and I expected it coming into the fight that I would knock (Bisping) out,” he said. “I am confident in my abilities.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 122, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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