UFC Hall of Fame: Michael Bisping
It’s fitting that in front of a sold-out crowd at the O2 Arena in London, Michael Bisping’s place in the Hall Of Fame was confirmed.
“The Count” cemented his legacy with multiple Fight of the Night performances, some epic trash talking and ultimately by becoming Britain’s first world champion. However, the Bisping story goes far beyond that of your average fighter.
Raised in Clitheroe in a working-class family, to Bisping, fighting was the only thing that defined him. At eight years old, Japanese Jiu Jitsu became his first martial art, shortly followed by kickboxing.
Bisping abandoned martial arts in early adulthood to pursue “real jobs” and met his wife Rebecca, who played a major role in his journey. They had two children, and Bisping found himself going through the motions of normal life.
Bisping was unhappy, in a rut, struggling financially and occasionally in trouble with the law. Then came a turning point; whilst working in a shop, his boss told him that he was capable of more and should think more about his future. Bisping decided to return to fighting. This was met with skepticism. It was almost a pipe dream.
Getting started wasn’t easy. Bisping recalls long drives to Nottingham to train, occasionally having to sleep in his car. On his way to the UFC, he picked up belts in Cage Rage and Cage Warriors.
Bisping then got his big break; the UFC held open trials in England for the Ultimate Fighter. Bisping impressed and shortly after found himself heading Stateside.
Alongside his fighting prowess, Bisping had the gift of the gab — winding up opponents which continuously increased his popularity. Bisping breezed through the competition; he’d essentially made it.
After amassing a 14-0 record, Bisping lost for the first time against Rashad Evans. Bisping then decided to move down to middleweight. A little later he faced fellow legend Dan Henderson.
In front of the world, Henderson landed his infamous “H-Bomb” and knocked Bisping out in one of the most brutal finishes in UFC history.
The knockout was so vicious that it could have broken many men, but not the “Count,” he was far from finished.
Bisping returned home to his adoring fans, gaining a victory over Denis Kang. A little later he faced another obstacle in his quest for championship glory.
Against Vitor Belfort, Bisping received a huge head kick which detached the retina in his right eye. Bisping underwent surgery and, ignoring medical advice, simply refused to quit. Shortly after, Bisping put on a great performance against Cung Le which led to a battle against fiercest of rivals in Luke Rockhold.
After a heated build up, Rockhold won. Bisping had lost before but this one looked bad. A new breed of fighter was emerging, and it seemed like Bisping might be left behind, but as we’d later find out, his story was still far from over.
After bouncing back, Bisping was offered the fight he’d always wanted, Anderson Silva.
“The Count” and “the Spider” produced a spectacle. Bisping feared being remembered as a good fighter, but one who always lost the big ones. However, that was about to change. In the opening two rounds, Bisping out boxed Silva, but in the third, things went horribly wrong. Losing his gum shield left Bisping distracted, and he was hit by a thunderous flying knee which left the Brit disorientated.
Silva celebrated, but there was still some life left in the old dog. Covered in claret, Bisping won the fourth round and rallied through the fifth to win. At this point, retirement would’ve been near perfect. He’d picked up a career defining win, but the fire was still burning, and the belt was still in his sights.
After Chris Weidman pulled out of his title fight on June 4, 2016, Bisping didn’t think twice before stepping up on short notice, and to make it even better, his opponent was set to be the man who’d already defeated him, Luke Rockhold.
Bisping was an enormous underdog coming into that fight. He was 37-years-old, taking the fight on two weeks notice, and in process of filming a movie. “The Count” can recall running and thinking, “how typical of my career is this? I get a shot at the belt with only two weeks notice.” However, after the run his head cleared — he was ready.
Bisping’s coach, Jason Parillo, drilled the left hook which he determined to be a gap in Rockhold’s defence in training. At UFC 199, Bisping found a quiet room and reflected on his journey, all the ups and downs, this was a must win fight, a legacy fight.
In the fight, Parillo’s plan was proved correct. Bisping landed the left hook, it was all over. Decades of work all packed into one punch, Bisping was the first British world champion.
Now, he looked to settle the score with another rival, Henderson. The fight took place in the early hours of a Manchester morning. Bisping was under pressure. He was hit with the “H-bomb twice,” but this time he showed resilience. His good eye closed, but Bisping still went on to win the next three rounds nearly blind.
Next up came a fight against returning legend, George St-Pierre. Despite a rough opener, Bisping won the second round and was on his way to winning the third, but unfortunately, he was caught with a left hook and eventually choked unconscious. Bisping’s decision to black out rather than tap out was just typical of the man, a warrior.
Controversially, he fought three weeks later against Kelvin Gastelum. The fight ended horribly as a jaded Bisping was brutally finished, however, to his credit, it was his career in a nutshell; always willing to fight anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Shortly after this, Bisping revealed that his good eye was damaged. And so, putting health first, a legend decided to retire.
In his career, Michael Bisping won numerous “FOTN” bonuses, headlined shows worldwide, landed the most significant strikes in history, and became the first British world champion.
It’s difficult to articulate just how inspirational Bisping’s career was. He was a man who was given nothing. He followed a dream, and in turn, inspired generations of British fighters. It wasn’t easy, money was tight, but he had a vision. The Bisping legacy is as close to a Rocky story as you’ll find. A man, who no matter how many times he got knocked down, never gave up. Irrespective of people saying he wasn’t good enough, he still believed. It was an incredible journey which captured the imagination, and as a fan, it’s been a pleasure telling his incredible tale.