Michael Bisping, it seems, loves to be hated.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s consummate villain, Bisping has enjoyed a remarkable run over the last decade. The 37-year-old Englishman used a reality show as his springboard and has since become one of MMA’s most consistent and prolific fighters. Bisping’s 19 victories inside the Octagon tie him with Georges St. Pierre for first on the UFC’s all-time list, while his 26 appearances rank third behind only Tito Ortiz and Frank Mir, both with 27. “The Count” also stands out from a statistical standpoint: According to FightMetric, Bisping has landed more significant strikes (1,414) than any fighter in UFC history. A former Cage Rage and Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder, he will defend the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown against Dan Henderson in the UFC 204 main event on Saturday at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
In a career with plenty of defining moments, here are five that stand out:
1. Fortune Favors the Bold
They say fortune favors the bold. It certainly shined upon Bisping at UFC 199 on June 4. Forever in search of an elusive title shot, he filled in on short notice for an injured Chris Weidman and challenged Luke Rockhold for the middleweight championship at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Rockhold, who had submitted Bisping with a one-arm guillotine choke in November 2014, entered the cage as a prohibitive -900 favorite. The odds mattered little to the Brit. Bisping cut down Rockhold with punches 3:36 into the first round, as he shocked the MMA world and completed his unlikely ascent to the top of the UFC’s middleweight division. “I always knew I was at this level. I’ve had my ups and downs and I’ve lost some fights along the way, but I still believed,” Bisping said. “I still always dusted myself off and built myself back up. I know I’ve had a lot of detractors and a lot of people didn’t believe I was at that caliber. I want to thank those guys, as well; they fueled me on and lit that fire inside me. I always knew I could do this. I always knew I had punching power. I always knew I had the ability.”
2. Along Came ‘The Spider’
Only one man has been awarded a decision over the great Anderson Silva in a five-round fight. Bisping withstood a third-round knee strike from “The Spider” to capture a unanimous verdict from the former champion in their UFC Fight Night main event on Feb. 27 at the O2 Arena in London. All three judges scored it 48-47 for Bisping. He out-landed Silva in significant strikes in every round but the fifth, where the Brazilian connected with 19 to his 18. Bisping was the far busier fighter, too, as he had unleashed 320 total strikes by the time the final horn sounded; Silva mustered just 135 of them. The bout was not without controversy, as many onlookers felt it should have been stopped when Silva floored “The Count” with a crushing knee near the end of round three. Nevertheless, Bisping was allowed to continue and walked away with a signature victory. “Listen, things were said between me and Anderson. I worship this guy,” Bisping said. “This guy is the greatest martial artist of all-time.”
It will go down as one of the most memorable knockouts in mixed martial arts history, and Bisping was its unfortunate recipient. His ill-fated first encounter with Henderson ended 3:20 into the second round at UFC 100, as “Hendo” connected with a rolling overhand right that knocked Bisping unconscious before 10,871 fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Henderson, a former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder, followed him to the canvas with a diving right hand for good measure. Lesser men might have wilted in the face of such adversity. Not Bisping. He has gone 12-5 in the seven-plus years since and kept himself relevant deep into his 30s, losing only to Rockhold, Tim Kennedy, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva.
4. Judged Favorably
Bisping has been on the wrong side of a number of questionable decisions, but on Sept. 8, 2007, he was the beneficiary of some judiciary charity in the minds of many. He locked horns with fellow “Ultimate Fighter 3” graduate Matt Hamill in the UFC 75 co-main event at the O2 Arena in London and left the cage with a contentious split decision in hand. Hamill outperformed Bisping in virtually every statistical category, as he connected with more significant strikes (56-47) and more total strikes (88-65), executed six of his 12 takedown attempts and made four guard passes. Even so, judges Jeff Mullen and Cecil Peoples cast 29-28 scorecards in Bisping’s favor. No one knows how the trajectory of his career might have changed had the decision gone in the other direction.
5. In Reality
While he was something of an unknown commodity stateside, Bisping had already won titles in Cage Rage and Cage Warriors by the time he was cast on Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2006. He made his presence known immediately and emerged as one of the favorites at 205 pounds. Bisping carved up Kristian Rothaermel with first-round punches in the quarterfinals and then struck countrymen Ross Pointon into submission in the semis. That set up a showdown with Josh Haynes at “The Ultimate Fighter 3” Finale on June 24, 2006 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Bisping outclassed Haynes for the better part of nine minutes, stopping him with punches 4:14 into the second round. With that, his UFC star was born.