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IT isn’t of­ten these days that FT casts an eye over the world of MMA.

But this week we are duty bound to hon­our a Bri­tish sport­ing leg­end.

Michael “The Count” Bisp­ing called time on a spec­tac­u­lar and pi­o­neer­ing ca­reer in one of the tough­est sports on the planet on Mon­day.

He re­tires as our most suc­cess­ful UFC fighter of all time, at the very least, due to a se­ri­ous on­go­ing eye in­jury.

Bisp­ing is a Bri­tish sport­ing icon and trail­blazer who not only made a name for him­self on a global scale thanks to his tal­ent, ded­i­ca­tion and bound­less self-be­lief, but did tire­less work to pro­pel his sport to the main­stream le­git­i­macy it en­joys to­day.

Not long ago, phrases such as “hu­man cock fight­ing” and “blood­sport” danced hand-in­hand with MMA or UFC across the pages of the na­tional press on the rare oc­ca­sions when col­umn inches were de­voted to the me­te­oric rise of the sport.

Bisp­ing changed that here on FT and with a se­lect few else­where.

An ex­cel­lent tech­ni­cal kick boxer with seem­ingly lim­it­less car­dio, the Clitheroe na­tive emerged onto the UFC stage as a con­tender in the cage and changed the for­tunes of the US gi­ant in a rav­en­ous mar­ket in the UK.

As he walks away 12 years later, he has done that and much more across the world.

The key driver in rais­ing aware­ness of the sport was get­ting be­neath the sur­face and pre­sent­ing the peo­ple be­hind the fights, their im­mense train­ing and ded­i­ca­tion – the hu­man sto­ries – and Bisp­ing was the ideal sub­ject.

De­spite hav­ing a young fam­ily as a de­voted dad, he slept in his car to train, even fought for free since 2003 to make the grade in MMA and get to the UFC, work­ing his way to­wards No1 con­tender sta­tus from his win on The Ul­ti­mate Fighter. He (W-L-D/NC)

UFC 20-9-0 fell ag­o­nis­ingly short of a mid­dleweight ti­tle shot in fights with the likes of Dan Hen­der­son, Vi­tor Belfort and Chael Son­nen, de­spite mem­o­rable wins along the way.

His UK fans were frus­trated as it ap­peared he wouldn’t quite make the grade while the sport was con­sumed with the spectre of PEDs and al­le­ga­tions of whole­sale cheat­ing as the dol­lars be­gan to pour in at the top of the game.

To his eter­nal credit, the ev­ere­volv­ing tech­ni­cian Bisp­ing was vo­cal in his con­tempt for fight­ers who cheated and re­mained con­sis­tent and clean through­out his ten­ure.

Fi­nally in June 2016, 99 shows af­ter that big right hand from Hendo left him look­ing at the lights at UFC 100, he took a fight for the ti­tle at a week’s no­tice against the in­cum­bent Luke Rock­hold and won em­phat­i­cally.

Our first and only UFC cham­pion, the right man to take that hon­our with all due re­spect to Dan Hardy, cer­tainly re­stored some faith that the sport­ing Gods were a de­cent bunch when they wanted to be. But The Count de­served it af­ter 15 years striv­ing with ev­ery sinew to have the gold around his waist.

At times an abra­sive and con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure, Bisp­ing was loathed and loved in equal mea­sure – in truth a com­pli­ment to his skill and un­der­stand­ing of the fight game. Fans al­ways wanted to see him win or lose with real pas­sion, which­ever side they were on.

He re­tires joint in the record books as the man with the most UFC fights (29) and most wins (20) and a UFC record of 20-9 over­all. A Hall of Fame berth is a cer­tainty even if a BBC Sports Per­son­al­ity nom­i­na­tion re­mains baf­flingly ab­sent from his stel­lar CV.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Mike, Re­becca and fam­ily – he might be able to move to Aus­tralia at long last! For­mer UFC Mid­dleweight Cham­pion UFC Ul­ti­mate Fighter Win­ner 2006 Cage War­riors Light Heavy­weight Cham­pion

A I en­close a cheque for £ PRICE £9.99 TO­TAL B Age 39 MMA Ca­reer 31-9-0 Cage Rage Light Heavy­weight Cham­pion BELT UP: Michael won the UFC mid­dleweight ti­tle

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