When Michael Bisping announced his MMA retirement on his podcast, Believe You Me earlier this year, he officially ended one of the most legendary careers in the history of the sport. “The Count” accomplished a lot during his run in the UFC, so much so that when pressed to name his favorite moment of his career in a recent interview with BBC Sport, he simply couldn’t name just one.
Michael Bisping: Ultimate Fighter
Bisping emerged on the North American MMA scene at almost the perfect time on season three of The Ultimate Fighter in 2006, following the explosion in popularity that the sport was in the middle of experiencing after two seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC in particular was rapidly growing due to popular rivalries such as Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell and Liddell vs. Randy Couture expanding the reach of the fanbase.
Bisping rode the wave, carving his own niche as the first British winner of UFC’s reality competition series. The season garnered huge viewership thanks in part to the intense rivalry between Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. The live TUF 3 Finale on June 24, 2006 tied the UFC’s all-time television ratings record at the time with a 2.0 viewership rating. With so many new eyes witnessing MMA for the first time, Bisping earned the perception of a superstar right out of the gate. Few, if any, TUF winners were able to maintain and grow their initial level popularity like Bisping.
The Next Chapters: Highs and Lows
Michael Bisping, who was only two years into his professional MMA career, would go from winning TUF 3 by scoring a second-round TKO over Josh Haynes at the TUF 3 Finale, to beginning a three-fight win streak inside the Octagon by scoring TKO wins over Eric “Red” Schafer and Elvis Sinosic before winning a very controversial split decision over fellow TUF 3 contestant Matt Hamill on another record-setting television special, as UFC 75 aired live on Spike TV for free instead of pay-per-view.
From there, Bisping was handed his first ever loss in the sport, as he dropped a close, and hotly debated, split decision to eventual UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and TUF 2 winner Rashad Evans. He would put together another three fight win-streak before suffering the most devastating defeat in his entire career.
Bisping’s second professional MMA loss was one that stayed with him for years. He suffered a brutal knockout loss to MMA legend Dan Henderson — on yet another record-setting show, as the bout aired as one of the co-main events at UFC 100 in July of 2009 — a PPV that held the biggest UFC buyrate record for years with a reported 1.6 million buys.
After the highlight reel KO loss to Hendo, Bisping bounced back with a win over Denis Kang in his next fight, but dropped a unanimous decision to Wanderlei Silva after that. “The Count” would put together another four-fight win streak, which included memorable rivalries with Jorge Rivera and Jason “Mayhem” Miller, before losing a controversial unanimous decision to Chael Sonnen in a title eliminator on the second ever UFC On FOX event, which drew an impressive 4.7 million viewers.
Once again, Bisping worked his way so close to the World Championship only to have it taken from him, forcing him to start from the bottom yet again and attempt to work his way back up.
Of course, that’s exactly what he did.
The Making of a Champion
“The Count” got back on the horse, however it would be hit-or-miss in terms of wins in his next few outings. He defeated Brian Stann in his next fight after the Sonnen loss, but then went on to lose in devastating fashion to Vitor Belfort in a fight that resulted in serious damage to his right eye. He defeated Alan Belcher in his next fight, but then dropped a unanimous decision to Tim Kennedy after that.
Finally, this is where things get truly interesting, as the UFC’s biggest U.K. Superstar would finally put together the run that would result in his capturing the UFC World Championship.
Bisping scored a brutal TKO victory over Cung Le at UFC Fight Night 48 in August of 2014, which set up a fight with a man that would become one of his top career rivals, former Strikeforce World Champion Luke Rockhold.
The story between Bisping and Rockhold started when the two trained together once and Bisping spoke about it in an interview, claiming that he was “the unofficial Strikeforce Champion” when asked who got the better of the other in sparring. Leading into the Rockhold fight at UFC Fight Night 55 in November of 2014, that was one of the main story points during the build-up.
Unfortunately, Bisping would get knocked down and choked out with a guillotine in the second round, bumping him back down the line in the UFC Middleweight division. However Bisping, with his never-say-die attitude, hopped back on the horse yet again and put together the longest win streak of his MMA career since joining the UFC.
Toppling The Spider & Reaching The Top of the Mountain
Bisping would pick up a unanimous decision victory over C.B. Dollaway in his first fight after the Rockhold loss. From there, he defeated Thales Leites via split decision, setting up what at the time was the biggest fight of his career — a bout against former UFC Middleweight Champion and consensus all-time pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva.
Bisping would earn an incredibly hard-fought unanimous decision victory over “The Spider” at UFC Fight Night 84 in London, England in February of 2016. The fight was one that saw Bisping get knocked out from a controversial strike from Silva after the bell, only to come back and do enough to earn the victory in all three judges eyes.
The Silva win was a big one, however Bisping still had a long way to go before he would be in a position to challenge for the UFC Middleweight Championship due to his spot in the official UFC rankings.
And then lady luck showed up.
UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold earned the title by destroying the seemingly unbeatable Chris Weidman in violent fashion at UFC 194 in December of 2015. He did the same to Lyoto Machida and Michael Bisping in his two fights that preceeded the title bout. He seemed to be starting a run in the UFC Middleweight division that could rival Anderson Silva’s legendary reign, as it appeared that no one had an answer for what he brought to the Octagon.
In his first title defense, Rockhold was scheduled to give former champion Weidman an immediate rematch, however when Weidman fell out of the bout due to injury, it was an old rival of Rockhold’s that received the call from the UFC offering him a title shot on short-notice.
That man was Michael “The Count” Bisping.
In a crazy evening that saw UFC kick veteran MMA journalist Ariel Helwani out of the event for breaking the news that Brock Lesnar was returning to the UFC to fight again, Bisping shocked the entire MMA world when he brutally knocked out Rockhold in the very first round to finally capture the UFC Middleweight Championship.
He did it. Despite all of the losses, the setbacks, the injuries and the PED-era that affected him as much or more than any other fighter in the promotion, Michael Bisping found a way to rise back up and claim the title that he sought out to capture when he first strapped on his UFC gloves at The Ultimate Fighter reality house over ten years earlier. It was a true Cinderella story, and one that couldn’t of happened to a better person.
Bisping wasn’t done just yet, however. He would go on to earn a unanimous decision victory over Dan Henderson in his first defense of the title at UFC 204 in October of 2016. The fight saw Bisping eat a lot of huge power punches, and while some even thought Hendo did enough to earn the decision, it was “The Count” who managed to get his hand raised, avenging the worst loss of his UFC career and doing so in his hometown of Manchester, England.
After losing the UFC Middleweight Championship to a returning MMA legend in Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217 in November of 2017, Bisping, in classic fashion, jumped right back on the horse again, accepting a bout against dangerous up-and-coming high-level contender and fellow TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai, China in November of 2017.
That’s right, “The Count” took a fight just 21 days after being dropped and choked out by GSP in their showdown at the legendary Madison Square Garden arena.
Things didn’t go as well for Bisping when he took a short-notice gamble this time, as he suffered a brutal first-round knockout loss to Gastelum, suffering damage to his “good (left) eye” in the process.
Calling It a [Legendary] Career
It was time to hang up the gloves. Bisping announced his retirement during an episode of his weekly podcast, Believe You Me, a few weeks ago.
“It ain’t worth it,” Bisping said during his retirement statement on the show. “I mean, what else am I going to do? I’ve won the belt, I’ve had tons of wins, I’ve done everything that I set out to achieve. What’s the point in flogging a dead horse? Not that I’m a dead horse, but what’s the point? I’ve done everything that I set out to achieve, and fortunately now I’ve used my platform to open other doors.”
Bisping continued, “You know, you’ve got to know when to walk away. I’m almost 40 years old, the time is now. So, I want to say, first of all, thank you to my wife. Without her, it wouldn’t have happened. That’s a fact. She was incredible every single step of the way. My children. My dad. My dad was amazing. And of course everyone in the U.K. and around the world that supported me. So, yeah, there you go. Great career. That’s that. Thank you everybody.”
So, now that Bisping’s fighting days are over, when he looks back on everything, what does he consider the best moment of his MMA career?
Good luck getting an answer on that one!
The former UFC Middleweight Champion and future UFC Hall Of Famer was asked to name the best moment of his career during the aforementioned interview with BBC Sport, and simply couldn’t narrow it down to just one.
“I get asked about my favorite fight all the time,” said Bisping. “Was it redemption and personal beef and the UFC belt against Luke Rockhold? Was it beating Anderson Silva in London against real adversity in the fight … coming back against a true legend of the sport, or was It avenging that crippling loss to Dan Henderson in Manchester at 5:30 in the morning (which was mental)?”
Bisping was pressed for an answer again, noting that he had apprehensions about the second Hendo fight, but again having difficulty on selecting just one moment.
“I was so apprehensive about that fight,” Bisping said of the Dan Henderson rematch. “I can’t choose. Oh, you’re making me choose, OK. Maybe Manchester… no, beating Anderson Silva…. No, wait, the belt.”
Bisping concluded, “I told you I couldn’t choose just one.”
Neither can we. Thanks for the great memories, Mr. Bisping! Enjoy retirement life.
Check out Michael Bisping’s Believe You Me podcast every week for one of the best MMA shows on the web. For more information on the podcast, follow the official Twitter page for the show @BYMPod.
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