I always thought Michael Bisping was a prick. Bisping was always cocky and arrogant when he had no reason to be. The cocky arrogance that Bisping walked around with would fuel him throughout his career. Yeah, he was a solid UFC fighter, but for as much shit as that guy talked you would have thought he was an undefeated world champion.
My first memories of disliking Michael Bisping came during season nine of the “Ultimate Fighter”. Bisping didn’t handle himself very well and came off like a huge dick. Throughout the season rival coach Dan Henderson was kind of just there and took Bisping’s verbal abuse. Bisping was brutally knocked in highlight reel fashion by Henderson at UFC 100. The KO loss didn’t do much in terms of making Bisping talk less or come off any more likeable.
I have followed the MMA since July of 2008. At that point in time, Bisping had only been fighting in the UFC for only 2 years. In all of his UFC fights, I never rooted for Bisping. Bisping was the ultimate heel. Chael Sonnen was known as an all-time great trash talker during that time period, but you could always tell it was an act to sell the fight. Bisping made you despise him in ways Sonnen wish he could have. Bisping ended up fighting Sonnen in January 2012, Bisping lost the fight via unanimous decision. Sonnen would go on to say that no fighter ever hit him as hard as Bisping did.
Bisping was pushed very hard by the UFC from the begining and for good reason. Bisping was the star and winner of season 3 of the Ultimate Fighter. After winning TUF Bisping had become one of the UFC’s hottest prospects, Bisping carried a lot of weight on his shoulders besides high expectations. Bisping is British and for most of his career was the face of British MMA and made it possible for UFC to have a breakthrough in the United Kingdom. Bisping headlined multiple UFC events and fought on many main cards that were hosted in the UK.
As Bisping’s career progressed he would get closer and closer to a title shot but could never get that breakthrough win. After over a decade of fighting and clawing his way to the top and a little bit of luck he finally got his shot. Bisping was on a three-fight winning streak he had most recently defeated Anderson Silva a man that most people consider the greatest middleweight fighter to ever step in a cage. The fight wasn’t without controversy. Silva landed a knee while Bisping was talking to referee Herb Dean during the fight, Dean never instructed Silva and Bisping to stop fighting, Silva hit Bisping with a knee so vicious that it would have made lesser men crumble, but Bisping wasn’t like most men. Bisping knew that if he beat the middleweight Goat he would finally get that title shot that eluded him for most of his UFC career. The bell rang and Bisping did what he had done his whole career, he picked himself up and got his wits about him and came out for the next round. Bisping would go on to win the fight. For me this was the start of Bisping’s “face turn”.
A few months after Bisping’s win against Anderson Silva. Middleweight Champion Luck Rockhold was supposed to take on Chris Weidman in a rematch from UFC 194, but Weidman was unable to fight due to injury. Weidman dropped out and Bisping finally got his chance on short notice. The odds were stacked against Bisping like they had been his whole career. I remember listening to a prefight interview Bisping did for the MMA Hour. I remember him being rather inspiring that day. I was listening to the interview while working out a rare occurence back in 2016. Bisping kept saying it was his time and that this what he had trained for this his whole life. I just remember thinking you’re goddamn right Bisping. You deserve this, and I hope you win. I had completely chagned my opinion of Bisping. It helped that he was fighting Luke Rockhold, a guy that I acutally somehow liked less than bisping. Bisping ended up being right and he knocked out Rockhold in the first round and became the middleweight champion of the world. Rockhold was particulary salty about the loss years after the bout took place.
Bisping would go to defend the title against aging gunslinger Dan Henderson, the man that had viciously knocked him out seven years earlier. In true bisping fashion he managed to get absolutley rocked twice in the fight. Bisping’s face was swollen and bloody, but he regained his composure and kept coming forward like he always did and imposed his superior cardio and techinical striking prowess. Bisping would go on to beat Henderson. Bisping’s next defense would come a year later against my favorite fighter of all time Georges St. Pierre. Bisping would hold his own in the fight. Bisping cut St Pierre with elbows and punches from his guard when he was taken down. While Bisping had a good showing, St. Pierre rocked him and won the fight after submitting him with a rear naked choke.
The thing about Bispings title win is that it was never supposed to happen, but against all odds it did. Bisping quit martial arts multiple times in his life because he couldn’t afford to keep training. After being viciously knocked out against Vitor Belfort in 2013, Bisping Suffered a detached retina that almost ended his fighting career entirely. Bisping’s fighting style is alot like his fight career, relentless. Bisping was never the most talented guy, he wasn’t the hardest puncher, he wasn’t the slickest Jiu-jitsu player, he was of the hardest workers in the history in sport of MMA and maximized his talent to the best of his ability. After losing to St. Pierre, Bisping fought Kelvin Gastelum weeks later and was knocked out.
After the knockout loss I felt bad for Bisping because I don’t want to see him take anymore unnecessary punishment. After years of disliking Bisping he had become one of my favorite fighters, something I never thought I would type. Bisping went from that cocky prick on the ultimate fighter to one of the most decorated fighters in UFC history. Bisping’s career was forged out of being a godamn animal. Bisping was RELENTLESS.
Bisping’s career is one that should be celebrated. I don’t know if this the end for him, but it’s been one hell of a ride if this really is the end. I would like to thank Michael for countless hours entertainment and making MMA a joy to watch.
Photo by Esther Lin, MMA Fighting