From Clitheroe, England to the bright lights of America. Michael Bisping concurred the land of opportunity.
‘The Count’ is solely responsible for paving the way of Mixed Martial Arts in the United Kingdom. Let’s dive into the gritty and inspirational story of Michael Bisping.
Mike’s journey is an inspiration to any upcoming martial artist. The never say die and never give up attitude made that journey a whole lot sweeter. From serving time in a maximum-security prison to working every job under the sun to pay the bills, nothing stopped that dream of becoming the greatest in his craft.
Bisping made his professional mixed martial arts debut at Pride & Glory 2: Battle of the Ages on 4 April 2004, taking a 0:38 submission victory over Steve Mathews. Just one month later, Bisping scored his first knockout against John Weir at UK MMA Challenge 7: Rage & Fury. In his third MMA match, Bisping became the Cage Rage light heavyweight champion at Cage Rage 7, defeating Mark Epstein by technical knockout. Bisping went on to defend his championship title in a rematch against Epstein at Cage Rage 9 in a knockout victory that solidified Bisping as one of the top light heavyweight fighters in England. The count continued to dominate the regional scene, landing himself main event slots on Cage Warriors.
The Ultimate Fighter
Bisping first came on the worldwide martial art scene when featuring on The Ultimate Fighter Season 3. Securing dominating wins over Kris Rotharmel, Ross Pointon and Josh Haynes crowning the Englishman as the ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ winner and bagging himself a UFC contract. This was the turning point when Mike was no longer taken as a joke. He showed his skill and sheer determination on the biggest stage, showing that us Brits can fight and that it wouldn’t be long until we catch up.
Mike made his official UFC debut on December 30, 2006, in none other than Las Vegas at UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz 2. Bisping defeated Schafer by TKO at 4:24 in the first round. Not bad from a young man from Clitheroe right?
The wins continued to stack and Michael’s profile began to rise. Names such as Elvis Sinosic and Matt Hamill were next. Just two months after the Hamill fight, Bisping was left to taste his first defeat in mixed martial arts competition. dropping a close split decision loss to Rashad Evans. Athletes are often graded on how they bounce back from situations like this and Bisping came back with three back to back wins and ticking a main event slot of that list at UFC 89: Bisping vs Leben.
Mike had many stepping stones and hurdles to face inside the octagon. However, none came tougher than the vicious knockout loss to Dan Henderson. This was the first time Mike had been knocked unconscious and he was now living every fighters nightmare. Having said that, the UFC didn’t make it easier on Mike, using the knockout video for promotional purposes across the country. The phrase ‘Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do’ is the best way to describe The Count’s comeback from this.
Mike’s career from here was like something from a fairy tale. He would advance back up the rankings, winning multiple fights back-to-back then, unfortunately, lose the big match-ups that would lead towards the end goal. The title fight.
April 2015 in Montreal, Canada at UFC 186: Johnson vs. Horiguchi is when the last run for the title started and ‘Believe You Me’ it was a ride. Mike had put the Luke Rockhold loss behind him. There was only one goal now, with limited time to achieve that. It was now or never for the count. A man who left it all in that octagon. Gave everything to the sport. Now was his time.
Taking wins over C.B. Dollaway and Thales Leites, he was presented with the challenge of one of the greats in Anderson Silva. Being ruled out and ridiculed before the bout had even taken place, everyone had counted him out… but not Mike. With the home crowd behind him, he went on to out-point one of the most dangerous men in the sport. When Anderson landed the knee after the buzzer, I along with everyone in the arena’s hearts sank.
An Opportunity of a Lifetime
At long last, Bisping was handed an opportunity. An opportunity of a lifetime. An opportunity that went on to make history. A championship fight against Luke Rockhold… on 17 days notice. Luke Rockhold was scheduled to fight Chris Weidman but Weidman had to pull out due to injury. This scenario summed up the luck of Bisping, having the biggest fight of your life, a potential five-round war over a guy who’s already beaten you and you have 17 days to prepare. It seemed unfair at the time but we knew there was no quit in The Count.
Rockhold was floored by the famous ‘Left Hook Larry’. Another left saw the American down again moments later. Following a flurry of devastating head and body shots, the fight was stopped after just three minutes. After all the hard times, the sacrifices, the struggles and grind. Michael Bisping had done it. History was made when Dana White strapped the belt and crowned Michael Bisping the Middleweight champion of the world.
Just four months later, Mike was faced with his first title defence in his own backyard of Manchester, England v the heavy-hitting Dan Henderson. This was a chance to get that one back from Dan, not for the fans, for himself. After a back and forth 5-round war, Mike secured a unanimous decision win to right the wrong and get the first title defence under his belt. Fast-forward one year and he was faced with what some believe as the greatest martial artist to compete under the UFC in Georges St. Pierre.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be, as he was defeated via a rear-naked choke. The next part best believe is why fans admire Bisping. Just three weeks after losing to George, Mike accepted a fight v Kelvin Gastelum in China. This fully backed up the famous “Two weeks’ notice, two days, two hours, two minutes, I’ll fight anyone anywhere” statement.
On 28 May 2018, Bisping officially announced his retirement from MMA competition, leaving behind a gruelling and successful career. As fans, we can only appreciate somebody who leaves it all out there every time and Mike was one of those.
Although living in America now, Mike never once forgets his home roots of the UK and it’s the reason the fans have stuck by him through the highs and lows. He paved the way for the next generation of UK fighters to push through and all we can be is thankful. A well-deserved UFC Hall of Famer.
Since retirement, Bisping has been pursuing an acting career, playing roles in a number of movies, has published his own book ‘Quitters Never Win’, has his own MMA podcast, and is currently working on a Michael Bisping documentary that will be coming soon.
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