Conor McGregor will be in attendance to watch the event unfold
Gegard ‘The Dreamcatcher’ Mousasi has become more vocal than ever in an effort to align himself with middleweight champion, Michael Bisping, a man he believes is most “beatable” middleweight champion the UFC has boasted in a long time.
A former Cage Warriors, Strikeforce and DREAM champion, his current three-fight win streak has him in a better position than ever to challenge for UFC gold.
His last win over the legendary Vitor Belfort has pushed him into the title conversation, but now he will try to avenge his last loss to spectacular striker Uriah Hall in UFC Belfast’s main event on Saturday night.
Hall shocked the world with his win over Mousasi in September 2015, a fight that the vast majority of people thought that Mousasi would win at a canter.
The victory made a lot of the international MMA community believe that Hall had shaken off the mental fragility that Dana White alluded to in the past, but the Jamaican went on to lose his next two fights against middleweight prospects Robert Whitaker and Derek Brunson.
While the general consensus seemed to think Hall would be among the elite fighters in the world if not for the lack of mental fortitude he has shown in the past, Mousasi simply believes his opponent isn’t “great” enough to be considered among the best 185-lbs fighters.
“I don’t know if his mind is his biggest weakness,” said Mousasi. “He’s a good fighter, but he is not great.
“To be honest, I think his stand up is sloppy. He’s dangerous because he can catch you with those kicks, but I really don’t see anything special. He’s tough. I can tell that from his previous fights. I don’t think it’s a mental thing with him. I just don’t think he’s that much of a good fighter.”
From what Mousasi says, you can’t help but think he underestimated Hall when they first met. However, after paying the ultimate price and finding himself on the end of a highlight reel knockout loss to his Belfast counterpart, ‘The Dreamcatcher’ has no intention of going asleep this time around.
“I’m going to have to be patient,” he explained. “I have to be wary of his big shots and I can’t rush out just because I think I’m going to run over him. I’m not going to do anything stupid. I’m not going to take the unnecessary risks.
"He’s a standup fighter. He’s dangerous with his kicks. I have to neutralize those and then I’ll be fine. I have my own kicks, I have my own punches and I have my ground game. I’m ready.”
With his star more prominent than ever on the UFC landscape, a lot of people thought Mousasi would be matched with a higher caliber opponent, given Hall’s two-fight skid. As far as the Iranian-born fighter is concerned, revenge is the only driving force behind his rematch with Hall, whose stock has crashed significantly since beating him.
Image: Gegard Mousasi receives applause after he defeats Mark Munoz from the United States in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night mixed martial arts event in Berlin, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
“I’ve got nothing against him, and I know he won our fight fair and square, but he is not my friend. He could be a nice guy or maybe not.
“I’m not looking for a relationship with the guy, but there are some people out there, I wouldn’t even call them fans, and they like to kick you when you’re down.
“This is all about me shutting people up. That’s what I want to do. And I know I will set the record straight.”
The whole world praised Michael Bisping when he knocked out Luke Rockhold to become the first British UFC champion in history at UFC 199. After a lifetime of fights under the biggest banner in the world, the plaudits came in thick and fast for the man who once held the status of being ‘the best fighter to never fight for a UFC title’.
Success has come to Bisping later in his life, at the tender age of 37. Yoel Romero has claimed the next shot at ‘The Count’ with his third round knockout of Chris Weidman in New York, but Mousasi believes that Bisping would be the underdog no matter who he took on, as one of the most “beatable” champions the middleweight division has had.
“He probably is the most beatable champion that has been there for a while,” he said.
“I have nothing against him. I like Michael, but when you look at the five guys that are behind him, all of those guys would be favourites if they were matched with him.
“Michael Bisping will always be the underdog and he is the champion, that doesn’t happen very often. Everyone expects him to lose. I’m not an oddsmaker but if he did fight anyone in the top five he would be the underdog. I don’t mean that as an insult it’s just the truth. Even after his impressive performance to win the title that’s what people think.”
For a long time, Mousasi felt he had not been given the same opportunities that American fighters have been. With his current form, he is becoming more and more undeniable in the title mix, and he is certain that his chance to win UFC gold will come next year.
“I definitely believe I will fight for the UFC title in 2017,” he said. “There are a lot of circumstances. Luke Rockhold is injured, so he’s going to be out for a bit. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You could get a title shot, or you could get a phone call to step in on short notice.
“Some guys might get put in ahead of me because they are Americans or ex-champions, because it’s all about making money for the UFC – it’s a business.
“I will earn my shot though and there will be no denying me.”