Saturday, December 10, 2022

What If: How Many Asterisks Should Michael Bisping Have Next To His Losses?

I’m not a Michael Bisping fan by any stretch of the imagination. Bisping isn’t a gracious winner, he’s an even less gracious loser, he’s obnoxious, he’s opinionated and he’s kind of a dick. “The Count” is as much of a true heel as MMA has ever seen. Fans both casual and hardcore alike have long rooted against him, wishing to see him get K.T.F.O.’d. But looking beyond the “Spitsping” incident and his often crass, disparaging remarks against opponents, there’s a fighter who may have the strongest argument for a career that might deserve asterisks beside many of his losses.

During Michael Bisping’s UFC tenure, he’s amassed 13 wins inside the hallowed “Octagon”, he’s won “The Ultimate Fighter” reality competition (way be back when winning TUF wasn’t a painfully arbitrary and tired feat) and has been an integral facet in ZUFFA’s expansion through the United Kingdom. Bisping’s strung together two separate four-fight win streaks under the UFC banner and has very respectable victories over the likes of Chris Leben, Denis Kang, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Brian Stann, Alan Belcher, Dan Miller and the still controversial and still much debated decision win against Matt Hamill, among many others.

Now consider the six career losses etched on Michael Bisping’s record: Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort and Tim Kennedy. Bookended between a split decision loss at light heavyweight and the recent lackluster comeback fight (following a yearlong layoff) are four crushing losses that undoubtedly changed the course of Bisping’s career. It certainly doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to identify what’s wrong with this picture. What do Hendo, Wandy, Chael and Vitor all have in common? ~Hint~PEDs~Hint~

It’s all officially on the books now, Chael and Vitor have multiple failed drug tests to their credit, Wanderlei is probably going to draw a suspension for skipping out on his last drug test (which is considered the equivalent to a failure) and Hendo’s “fountain of youth” has been traced back to a stream of TRT usage(and we’ve seen the results of a TRT-less Hendo against Cormier). These major losses of Bisping’s career have been to fighters with serious PED reputations and have repeatedly thwarted potential middleweight title shots for Michael Bisping, while getting cracks at Anderson themselves (all but Wandy). Looking back retrospectively, one really starts to pull into question the possible outcomes of these bouts, asking “WHAT IF” both fighters had been on an equal playing field?

This isn’t to suggest that Bisping beats Anderson Silva for the MW title years ago or Chris Weidman today, but given how Bisping’s mouth sells fights, that’s a helluva lot of money left on the table regardless of outcome. PED use during this time period cost Bisping a great deal of money. Much like most professional athletes, the window for MMA fighters to make big money is quite limited to a few “prime” years. The reality of the situation is that at 35 years old, Michael Bisping is more than likely nearing the tail end of his “prime” fighting years and when you start factoring in cumulative injuries and his most recent, convincing decision loss to Tim Kennedy, the days of “The Count” being in the hunt for middleweight title contendership may have passed him by. Bisping will probably never get that big money PPV title fight and would need at least three notable wins before being in a title shot conversation, which at Bisping’s age is increasingly implausible. Meanwhile, Vitor Belfort is waiting in the wings for Chris Weidman to recover from the Machida bout, with his recent failed test for elevated testosterone levels in his pocket.

I really wonder if fans would be more up in arms and irate over this “what could’ve been” scenario, had this happened to a more popular “fan favourite” than a heel like Bisping? This isn’t intended to be a sob story for Bisping, he’s made good money, has an established name and likely has a career as an analysis once his fighting days are done. Still, I just can’t help but question what the trajectory of Michael Bisping’s career may have looked like, if those who beat him during his prime weren’t utilizing some form of pharmacological “assistance”?

  • Does an aging Hendo make it through a full camp to unload on Bisping at UFC 100?
  • Does Sonnen have what it takes to squeak out the decision victory in very close ‘title eliminator” fight if he isn’t taking god only knows what?
  • And hey, does Vitor even get as far as he does with his current winning streak, without the exploitation of testosterone?

Like I said at the very beginning, I’m not a Bisping fan. However looking at his record and those four losses specifically and what we know now, I think there’s a strong argument for putting- at the very least- a mental asterisk beside those losses, if not official ones. Endgame, Bisping kinda got jobbed.

Got feedback? I can be reached at @JeffPParker on Twitter.