As The Count announces his retirement, we look back on his unlikely ascent to the top of the UFC
A little over eleven years ago an inexperienced Michael Bisping took on Elvis Sinosic in front of a baying home crowd in Manchester. It would turn out to be a fight which would serve as the perfect metaphor for his career.
Having retired this week due to ongoing eye issues, Bisping can look back on a stellar MMA career packed with high-profile wins, UFC records, and a stint as middleweight champion.
But it could have all been so very different.
Having dominated Sinosic in round one, in the early knockings of the second stanza Bisping found himself on his back, and soon after in what looked to be a pretty well locked-in Kimura.
As the 15,000 in attendance held a collective breath, he was able to slip out, reverse and win the fight with some heavy ground and pound.
In the face of adversity, Bisping would ultimately triumph. As would be the case with the following years of his career.
The Count has been the subject of one of the laziest labels in sport. A fighter who didn’t necessarily possess the greatest talent, but was always the hardest worker in the room. To say that downplays his capabilities is the biggest of understatements.
He may not have the wrestling of a US fighter, or the slickest jiu-jitsu, but he is a stunning kickboxer who found the recipe required to win fights.
Bisping burst onto the UFC scene, while the organisation was still in something of its nascent years – particularly from a mainstream perspective. The winner of the third season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), his fight against Sinosic was just his second on the main roster. Defeat, especially in front of his home fans, would have been unimaginable.
As it was, the win helped kick-start the growth of the sport and organisation in the UK, with Bisping now very much the flag bearer.
He had gone from the guy who needed subtitles on TUF due to his thick northern English accent, to a face of the company. A warrior in the ring, charismatic and ebullient outside it. He may not have been everyone’s cup of tea with his outspoken antics and brash confidence, but he was the perfect front for an organisation looking to cast the net far and wide in search of a fan-base.
Without Michael Bisping, the UFC does not look like the business it is today.
They have shared a journey which has been bumpy at times, but the highs have far outshone the lows and ultimately they both reached the very top of their respected ladders.
Bisping’s numbers speak for themselves. Nobody has had more fights in the UFC. Nobody has more UFC wins. Only Frankie Edgar has spent more time in the Octagon. And in the history of the UFC, only three men have more knockouts to their name.
For a man often derided in lacking ability, those are pretty impressive figures.
Even when you look at the list of fighters who have defeated Bisping, it features only the elite of the sport. A reverse against Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Waderlai Silva or George St. Pierre is nothing to be ashamed of.
The obvious high point is the stunning knockout of Luke Rockhold to win the 185lbs title in 2016, a fight he took on just 17 days’ notice.
It was an ascent to the top of the mountain which had been years in the making, repeatedly the bridesmaid, it seemed Bisping was destined to always fall at the final hurdle.
But he was very much a fighter’s fighter, and to step in on short notice, against a man who had already choked him to defeat two years prior, in the hope of realising the dream sums Bisping up perfectly. Adversity embraced, he came out the other side a champion.
His legacy in the fight game is secure, a future Hall of Famer for sure, he can bow out safe in the knowledge he is truly one of the greats to grace the Octagon, and a trailblazer which has helped put the UFC in the place it is today.