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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