Michael Bisping saves otherwise dull UFC 152 press conference

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:11 AM ET

TORONTO - The one thing we learned from the rambling UFC 152 media conference on Thursday was that there won’t be any grudge matches on Saturday night.

At least not any of the main event fights.

UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones admires and respects challenger Vitor Belfort, who admires and respects Jones.

And both Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson, who fight for the newly UFC flyweight title, admire and respect each other as well. Hell, they even went to a Coldplay concert together earlier this summer.

Thank goodness for Michael Bisping. While the British Bad Boy had mostly good things to say about his opponent on Saturday, fellow UFC middleweight Brian Stann of the U.S., he did at least mix things up a bit — which was good because without UFC president Dana White at the head table, the conference sort of deteriorated into one of those media lovefests the UFC is so famous for. Jones even said he loved White, who unfairly lambasted Jones only a couple of weeks ago for refusing to fight Chael Sonnen at the now-cancelled UFC 151.

Here’s the thing, anytime you have a UFC media conference, at least in Canada, it seems a great segment of the so-called media fawn over the fighters (as well as White), including the one woman on Thursday who began her “question” by telling all the fighters how great and wonderful they all were.

And then there was the Brazilian “journalist” who yammered something to Jones about a naked picture of the UFC light-heavyweight champ that is apparently circulating on the internet, and how all the women back home in Brazil appreciated it.

“What’s the question again?” a puzzled Jones asked.

Without White, who apparently had travel issues getting to Toronto, the conference seemed direction-less. Don’t get me wrong. UFC still does a remarkable job marketing its product. But the whole ‘fastest-growing, most-exciting, hippest sport in the world’ spiel seems to be getting a little tired. Maybe that’s why, as of mid-week, the ACC still wasn’t sold-out. Toronto is supposed to be the epicentre of UFC fandom. And while the fans and media still show up for all the media events, you have to wonder.

I think what the UFC needs at this point is somebody like Bisping winning a title (though if he defeats All-American hero Stann on Saturday he may get to fight for Anderson Silva’s title). The Manchester, England native isn’t the most beloved fighter in the organization’s stable, and sometimes his act wears a little thin, but at least he has an outgoing personality and usually has something interesting to say. This is, after all, entertainment, not — as Jones put it at the open workouts on Wednesday — life or death.

One fan (or it could have been a media person, it’s hard to tell the difference at UFC press conferences) asked Bisping when he’s going to be in a Guy Ritchie film. Actually, it was a good question. The Count would have been perfect in something like Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The best part of Thursday’s presser was Bisping’s give-and-take with Benavidez, who sat to the Brit’s immediate right at the head table.

Earlier this summer, the two engaged in a bit of a Twitter war after Bisping suggested that his middleweight bout against Stann should take precedence at UFC 152 over a couple of diminutive flyweights. In response, Benavidez said he could hit harder than Bisping, which cheesed off The Count, who then referred to Benavidez and stablemate Urijah Faber. as “a munchkin crew”, “stuck in the bodies of pre-pubescent boys”, adding that he was going to “(expletive) strangle” Benavidez the next time the two met up. And so a reporter asked Bisping on Thursday if all was forgiven, seeing that they were sitting beside each other, all nice-like.

“The strangling that he’s talking about has already taken place,” said Bisping. “We settled our differences, he’s apologized. He’s turned down a fight with my son. And we’re good now. He’s OK. He knows his place. He’s one of the little guys. Not one of the big guys.”

Benavidez didn’t appear overjoyed with that statement and quipped that the strangulation was pretty weak.

“I wasn’t impressed,” Benavidez said.

Too bad they aren’t fighting each other on Saturday night. Maybe Bisping could fight Benavidez on one knee.


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