Watch the extended preview above just released for UFC 217: Bisping vs. St-Pierre. Hear from GSP, who talks about coming back better than ever. Plus, Michael Bisping discusses his prowess as champion and why GSP is making a mistake.
MORE on UFC 217: Read about the intense rivalry between Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw
There was no smile from Jason Parillo when Michael Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold to win the UFC middleweight title in June 2016. No jumping up and down, no sighs of relief.
That’s just not the style of the New York native, Bisping’s longtime striking coach and as no nonsense as they come. In fact, when Bisping was pulled off Rockhold by referee John McCarthy, all we got out of Parillo was a pair of raised arms that turned into crossed “I told you so” arms.
But he promises that if Bisping successfully defends his title against Georges St-Pierre in the main event of UFC 217 on Nov. 4, we might get a very different reaction.
“What would really put a smile on my face is seeing Michael outclass Georges St-Pierre,” Parillo said. “As great as Georges St-Pierre is and has been, I think Michael continues to improve in the late stages of his career. So to see him go out and be able to control that fight and dictate how he wants it to be and shut him (GSP) down in all areas and get him out of there, that would make me one jovial Jason Parillo.”
Parillo laughs, clearly pleased with his fighter’s preparation leading into the biggest fight of his career. For the former pro boxer and striking coach to some of MMA’s best, including BJ Penn and Cris Cyborg, he lives for these fights.
“I was a competitor and I’m a competitive guy,” he said. “You’re not a coach if you’re not competitive and want to go against the best. Don’t get me wrong, I like making people feel good and I like developing fighters, but I want to work with the best fighters out there and fight the best fighters with them and go up against the best coaches as well.”
That means he’s even more amped up on a personal basis, knowing that he will get another crack at St-Pierre (who defeated Penn at UFC 94 in 2009 with Parillo in the corner) while matching wits with GSP head coach Firas Zahabi, as well as one of boxing’s best trainers, Freddie Roach.
“This fight is about Michael Bisping, the champion of the world, and his opponent, GSP, but in my subconscious there’s a storyline for myself as well,” he said. “I’m the coach, I’m behind the scenes, so I can just enjoy and suffer through it in the back of my head. Of course that’s interesting. You’ve got Freddie Roach, one of the all-time great boxing coaches, in the opposite corner, so it’s exciting for me. But it’s an MMA game too, so it’s a little different playing field for him. I think I’ve got more experience in the MMA world than Freddie Roach does, even though I’m sure he’s worked with quite a few MMA guys. But I don’t think he’s ever really tried to adapt his style or has been concerned about some of the vulnerabilities you have with MMA, so it’s gonna be interesting.”
Some have said the presence of Roach in the corner is just a diversionary tactic, one to make Bisping think that St-Pierre will abandon his ground game in order for a boxing-based attack in November. But Parillo has his charge ready for everything that the former welterweight champion may throw at him at Madison Square Garden.
“It is smoke and mirrors,” he said. “Mike knows that, and we know we’re gonna spend a lot of time on the ground. Do I think that GSP’s the type of athlete that can add to his arsenal on his feet, and can Freddie add a couple inches to his game? Sure. There’s no doubt. But is he gonna go in there and find success on his feet right away and stay with it, I doubt it. I’ve watched a lot of GSP fights and I don’t see any fights where he’s not shooting in the first minute or two. He’s got a beautiful, masterfully timed shot, and he knows how to disguise and set it up, so that’s obviously something we’re going to be really focused on.”
Parillo also believes previous training sessions between the two years ago have provided a level of comfort when it comes to the upcoming fight, but he’s keen to point out that his fighter has changed his game up considerably since then.
“They trained together 10, 11 years ago, so they’ve got a feel for each other once before and you remember that, even though both guys are probably completely different,” he said. “I think Michael definitely falls in the category of completely different. I think with GSP, the wrinkles that he’s added to his game since then, there have been some, but for the most part, movement wise, mechanically, he’s pretty much the same animal. I can’t discredit GSP, I can’t put him down, but I know the leaps and bounds that Michael has gone through over the last 10, 11 years compared to GSP.”
There’s also the idea of St-Pierre’s nearly four years away from the sport, Bisping’s size advantage over a fighter who has fought his career at 170 pounds, and the intangibles on the side of the gritty Brit, whose last three victories saw him defeat the 185-pound champion, Rockhold, and a pair of all-time greats in Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson. Yet to many, “The Count” is still the underdog this fall.
“Does it rub me the wrong way when GSP is coming out of retirement after three and a half years, he’s a smaller fighter and he’s the favorite in the fight? Really? I’ll take it because it puts us under the radar and I’m fine with it. Michael Bisping had been the underdog in, I don’t know, his last 10 fights. I think he might have been the favorite against CB Dollaway. All these fights, he doesn’t get that respect, but with his personality and his fighting spirit and the things that he’s accomplished and the records he’s made in the UFC, I think Michael Bisping will be talked about throughout history.”
And there’s no one Parillo would want to have his back more than the middleweight champion.
“Guys like him are the best friends,” he said. “You want to get stuck in a tough spot with that super sweetheart of a friend, or do you want to be stuck in a tough spot with that guy who’s really got your back? Does he love the attention from this? Yes. Does he love the money from it? Yes. But this guy loves to fight. He’s a born fighter.”