UFC middleweight Michael Bisping (27-7) has waited virtually an entire career to fight Anderson Silva (33-6), and the 36-year-old Brit will finally get his chance when the two headline UFC Fight Night on Saturday at O2 Arena in London. The event airs on the promotion's digital subscription service, UFC Fight Pass, at 4 p.m. ET.
Bisping, who now lives and trains in southern California, has launched an unrelenting verbal attack on the Brazilian icon for a pair of failed drug tests prior to his last fight against Nick Diaz in January 2015. Silva, 40, maintains he has never knowingly taken a banned substance. This will be Silva's only second fight in 26 months.
Bisping spoke to ESPN.com a wide range of topics ahead of this weekend's event.
When is the first time you can remember looking at Silva as a potential opponent?
When I dropped to middleweight (in April 2008). When I first started with the UFC, I was a light heavyweight. Then I dropped to middleweight and I had my sights set on being a champion, like anybody does. Anderson Silva was the guy, so he was the guy I wanted to fight for a long time. I always felt I matched up well with him and I get to prove that on Saturday.
What was the closest you ever felt to that opportunity? You've been in several No. 1 contender fights, when was the closest you felt to getting a fight against Silva?
I guess the fights with Chael Sonnen (January 2012) and Vitor Belfort (January 2013). Those were No. 1 contender matchups. The (decision) loss to Chael was a tough pill to swallow because the majority of people, including Chael himself, thought I won that fight. It was close, he got the nod. It is what it is. With Belfort, (UFC CEO) Lorenzo Fertitta actually came into my dressing room and said, 'Anderson is in the house. If you beat Vitor, feel free to call him out tonight.' So, of course that was a close one but I lost that fight. Now, Vitor was probably on every steroid known to man at the time but yeah, what can you do?
You've said it's your own fault for never earning a UFC title shot in 10 years, but have there been times where you're like, 'How has this not happened?' With the UK fanbase behind you, 17 wins inside the Octagon -- you ever ask yourself how this fight hasn't happened before?
To be honest, I don't really dwell on these things. I can't change the past. Certainly, when you look at some fighters and the road they had to title shots or big fights, it blows my mind. Look at Chris Weidman's road to his title shot. It was certainly a hell of a lot easier than any of the roads I've had but as I say, I'm not bitter I'm still happy with my life. I've got a beautiful family. I'm doing what I love. I'm passionate about the UFC. I'm passionate about being a fighter. I'm not dwelling on the past.
This is a fight you've wanted for a long time, in London -- but what was your reaction to it airing exclusively, worldwide, on UFC Fight Pass instead of a more traditional platform?
Of course, we all want to be on the biggest stage possible. I'm putting on a stellar performance and beating Anderson Silva, and I would love for the world to see it. The fact it's on Fight Pass is inconsequential to me. In some ways, I'm honored to build this new platform and hopefully it will do big things. It's a bit of a bummer, though. Anderson Silva is a big name. Everybody knows who he is. Everybody is asking where they can see the fight, is it on TV -- I say, 'no it's on Fight Pass' and then I have to explain what that is. It kind of bums me out a bit, but at the same time, anyone across the world can access it. They can see it on a cell phone, laptop computer, smart TV, so that is a lot of access. Everybody wants to fight on PPV, but I'm proud it's on Fight Pass. It's a big fight, let's get on with it.
Usually, underdogs go a full fight camp having to listen to doubters. It seems like many have doubted you in a matchup against Silva your entire career. Is that accurate?
Well, I don't have my head buried in the same. I know popular perception in the past has been if I were to fight Anderson Silva, I would have lost -- but I've got to say, I don't think that's the opinion of people now. I think a lot of people think I'm going to win on Saturday. I surely think I'm going to win. My coaches think I'm going to win and that's really all that matters. I'm very calmly confident. I'm not being arrogant, as all these little a--holes on forums like to say. 'Oh, he's arrogant.' I'm not arrogant. I think I'm going to win. Pardon f------ me for thinking I'm going to win and not walking in saying I'm going to lose.
You've been very outspoken about Silva's failed drug tests last year. Did you ever once suspect him of foul play prior to then?
I wasn't aware of how rampant the problem was. I guess I was a little naive, looking back. Anderson Silva was a guy that was a hero to many people. He inspired people to take up martial arts and watch MMA. He was the untouchable champion. Invincible, unbeatable. You had these spectacular knockouts that inspired and awed people all over the world. This was a guy that oozed martial arts, talked about respect and bowed to the crowd. This is a guy you would never, in your wildest dreams, think he was cheating and taking steroids and was a coward -- but unfortunately, it turns out he's a fraud. He was a coward. He was a cheat. He was taking steroids his whole career. And he still denies it to this day. He pretends it didn't happen. Shame on him. Every time he put that belt over his shoulder and wore that big cheesy smile after winning all those fights, I don't know how he did that knowing he cheated.