We all know Michael Bisping. He’s an amazing fighter from the UK, and a long-tenured superstar. Some may notice the lack of a belt in his trophy case, but he has not yet given up on that goal. While he seems to fall short in the quest for promotional gold, Michael is always in a prominent position of every fight card, either the main event or co-main. “The Count” doesn’t complain. He carved a little slice of the American Dream for himself, with a beautiful family, a new home in California, a secure future, and intriguing options post-career. But he is far from retiring, so we might yet see that belt in his hands. This is how to become a UFC fighter Michael Bisping style.
How Michael Bisping Became a UFC Fighter
Interestingly enough, his first taste of fighting came early in life. His two older brothers were rowdy, and students two grades above Michael sought to get revenge on the youngest Bisping. They didn’t fare well against Michael:
“I guess I always had a chip on my shoulder,” Bisping said. “I was bored a little bit here and there, but to be honest, I was obsessed with martial arts at a young age.”
While Michael did dabble in rugby and canoeing, it didn’t take long for him to find his true passion. By the time he was 15, Michael was fighting in Knock Down Sport Budo, a British version of MMA as we know it today.
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“It was an international tournament, [with] guys from all over Europe: Sweden, France, Denmark, England. Four fights in one night. I started doing it when I was 15, obviously a headstrong lad. I won the majority of them,” Bisping said. “Even then, I didn’t think that this was something I could make a career out of. It was just a hobby. I had a natural competitive streak in me. I always enjoyed a good fight. What can I say? Some people are made up for different things, and I was always talented at that; and I always enjoyed testing myself.”
His bad boy style started forming back then. Not only did he not want to shake hands with his opponent, he opened with front kick to the chest.
“We bowed. The referee said, ‘Fight.’ There it is; it’s a fight,” Bisping said. “I was always very aggressive when I was younger. I was around a lot of violence as a child. I’m in the zone. When we bowed, the referee said, ‘Fight.’ I didn’t have any idea of shaking hands.”
It seems that Bisping is not too proud of his act, explaining it with violence in the house, which he is quite reluctant to elaborate on. Still, it shows that fighters are made in an early, tender age.
“I don’t want to get into it too much. My family was a very loving family, of course -- my parents, I love them dearly -- but there was a lot of violence in our household,” Bisping said. “Trust me ... it was a well-known house. There was a lot of violence, and that’s about as much as I’d like to say. I don’t want to throw my family under a bus. I saw a lot of things and I was around a lot of things that I shouldn’t have been around, but it made me the man I am today.” Another important influence for many fighters, including Bisping, is a visionary or inspiring coach. For Michael, that was Paul Lloyd Davies.
“He put a vision in my head and said, ‘Michael you’re going to be the best fighter in the world. You’re going to make a lot of money. You’re going to do movies. You’re going to do TV,’” Bisping said. “I thought, ‘Well, Jesus Christ, I’ve got nothing to lose.’ And I worked for it. Everything he said has come true. It really has come true. At the time I used to think, ‘This is farfetched. He’s getting too carried away. If half of what he says comes true, I’ll be happy.’ Well, it’s all come true: I do movies, I work on TV ... I’ve been in the top 10 forever. I thank him for putting that vision in my head.”
It’s not easy to reach the Octagon. Michael dropped out of school at age 16 and went on to gather impressive collection of different jobs in his pre-UFC career. Bisping worked as a tiler, plasterer, slaughterer, postman, door-to-door salesman, demolition worker and as an upholsterer. None of them, of course, stimulated him as much as excelling at martial arts and becoming a UFC fighter.
“I never really paid full attention to my academics. I never went to college; I did briefly, but I dropped out very quick -- 16 years old working in a small town with no opportunities in the middle of nowhere in northern England; there’s limited opportunity,” Bisping said. “Of course, at the time, I had no qualifications to rest upon. What are you gonna get? You’re gonna get s****y dead-end jobs, and that’s about it. I did them all. I did everything under the sun.”
At that time, Michael met his eventual wife Rebecca. She was supportive of his desire to compete in martial arts matches, and he proved to be loyal father, putting his fighting career on hold when their family expanded.
“Obviously, we ended up having children pretty quickly. It wasn’t planned, but you know these things happen. I kind of put [fighting] on the backburner and just tried to get a regular job, pay the bills [and] just provide for the family,” he said. “I did that for a while, but there was a big void in my life. I felt like I wasn’t achieving what I could achieve. I was always ambitious, always wanted to work hard and provide the best for my family.
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“If it was just me … maybe it wouldn’t have been as urgent the need. I really wanted to give my children the best that I could,” Bisping added. “The best way I could provide for them was my fighting ability. I’ve always been a fighter since I was a little kid, and I’ve always been very successful at it. I started to give all my energy and efforts towards that.”
“Michael as a husband is a devoted husband,” Rebecca said, “and all he wants in life is for me, his wife, to be happy. Everything he does is for his children. Callum [the oldest] really looks up to Michael. They’ve got so much in common. Everything’s a competition in this house. Michael hates to lose. He can’t even stand to lose against his own son.”
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That is the attitude that helped Michael Bisping climb up the UFC ladder to become one of the Top 10 middleweight fighters. Bisping made his debut on the TV screen, as a participant in the reality show “The Ultimate Fighter”. The camera loved him, and he TKO’d his way to victory. However, Bisping fully unleashed his charming bad guy persona a bit later, after a controversial split decision win over Matt Hamill at UFC 75 in London. Although everyone thought that Hamill was robbed, Michael was quite cocky after the match:
“Do you want to go three rounds? Of course I won the decision,” Bisping taunted. “Get the [expletive] out of here. Get that smile off your face.”
This bad boy attitude cost Michael some popularity. No one remembers that he defeated big names and scored 28 victories from 35 fights. Most were just glad to see him fall from two nasty TRT-powered hits that KO’d him. The first was by Dan Henderson, and the other by Vitor Belfort. This bad experience turned Michael into a vocal anti-PED (Performance-Enhancing Drug) champion for MMA.
“I’ve never taken a performance-enhancing drug in my life, and I say that categorically. I know that is not the trend, and the more and more I’m finding out, the more and more I’m disgusted with people,” Bisping said. “[It’s] disgusting and anyone that has done it, I don’t know how they sleep at night. They parade around with their belt or whatever it may be, or they flaunt their success. Well, they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Bisping is bobbing up and down in the eyes of fans. Often seen as the heel in the ring, his behavior out of the ring is nothing but illustrious. He is known to be a family man, dedicated to his kids and wife who he calls ‘The Boss’. Bisping is also proving that his nickname ‘The Count’ is well worth it. Kendall Grove has endured some nasty downs over the course of his career. If it weren’t for Bisping, Grove might have quit MMA.
“One day he reached out and said, ‘Hey, you ever need help, just let me know. I’ve got your back.’ I was struggling in my career and I got let go from the UFC,” Grove said. “I was trying to get fights. He was like, ‘Hey, come out. I’ll pay for your trip. I’ll pay for your training. I’ll pay for everything.’ It’s been cool like that ever since. He kind of helped me revive my career … He’s helped me through all my ups and downs, so I’m indebted to that guy, career-wise.”
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Still, Bisping almost cherishes his bad boy persona, and his wife Rebecca confirms that not all of his antics are an act.
“It is what it is,” he said. “Of course, I’m always going to be the bad guy fighting in America. I’m always going to get booed. Did I play up to that sometimes?... It’s not so much that I played up to it, but if you’re gonna boo me, then go [expletive] yourself. I’ll give you something to boo for. I’m not gonna sit there and beg you to like me. I’m not gonna fall on my knees like Chris Weidman and beg you to be my fan. If you don’t like me, then kiss my ass.”
All image issues aside, the man has proven his worth again and again, as well as his demonstrating his mettle and passion for the sport. Michael recovered from a series of injuries that might have knocked any other fighter out of the ring forever. Enduring two detached retina operations put him out of the game for a full year, but he is grateful that it wasn’t forever.
Not everyone possesses the same passion, but knowing how fanatical Michael is for the UFC, it’s no small wonder that he reacted fiercely about the retirement of Frankie Perez...who retired after his first UFC win.
“If he retired after knocking somebody out in his first UFC win, I would say he hasn’t got the cojones to really be in this sport, because it’s a tough sport,” Bisping said. “He said he’s sick of what it does to his body. He’s sick of feeling like this. Well, guess what? This sport isn’t designed for everybody ... Let the real men do it.”
How to Become a UFC Fighter: Fighting Spirit, Dedication, Pride and Joy
In the end, it is that fighting spirit that makes one become a great UFC fighter. It’s a relentless drive for excellence. A dedication to the sport; a pride and joy one experiences in the ring. It’s a feeling of self-fulfillment. But of course, no one can put it better than ‘The Count’ himself:
“It’s something that’s got me in a lot of trouble over the years, but it’s something that I’ve always excelled in. When I was a kid and somebody from another school thought he could beat me up, I was like, alright, let’s set it up. Let’s go on that field somewhere and fight,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed and something that I’ve always prided myself on. There’s nothing that gets me more excited than knowing that the UFC is flying me to Australia or Macau or some exotic location, and I’m going to be the main event and I’m going to fight this other [expletive] stud from the other side of the world. That gets me going and makes me want to train.”
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