If he had the option to do it all over again, Michael Bisping would have ended his mixed martial arts career one fight earlier than he actually did.
After relinquishing the middleweight title via submission to Georges St. Pierre in a physically-demanding bout at UFC 217, Bisping agreed to face Kelvin Gastelum approximately three weeks later in the UFC Fight Night 122 headliner. The British veteran dealt with eye issues dating back to 2013, when he suffered a detached retina in his right eye in a knockout loss to Vitor Belfort. Bisping told Submission Radio that he wears a prosthetic and is essentially blind in that eye.
While that created some difficulties in his career, he was able to get cleared consistently enough to experience some of his greatest success from that point forward. However, Bisping briefly had fears of losing vision in his good eye following the knockout loss to Gastelum in November 2017.
“I fight Georges St. Pierre, I lose that fight, and he knew I was blind in one eye – he targeted it. Then, I fly to Shanghai, couple of weeks later I fight Kelvin Gastelum, I get cracked, I think I’ve had a good run and that was that,” Bisping told Submission Radio. “And then we go to an after-party afterward, and I’m sitting there in this club, and every time I look this way, I get a flash of light. I was like, what was that? So I look again, another flash of light. And every time I look to the left, I would get a flash of light. And I started panicking because I’m thinking, holy s--t, I don’t believe this, I’ve got a detached retina in my good eye. And I started getting emotional, in a night club. I’ve had a couple of drinks, but I’m like, f--k, I’m thinking I’m gonna go blind.”
The issues continued during his flight home, so Bisping went to see a doctor. While the eye had been injured, the former UFC champion did not lose his vision. It turned out he suffered a vitreous detachment, which doesn’t threaten one’s vision by itself, but can eventually lead to a detached retina.
“It’s a long flight back to LA, and I wake up halfway through and I look to my left, and there’s that flashing light. Holy s--t, I’ve forgotten all about that. So when I land, I call my eye doctor straight away, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, you need to see someone.’ I go in there — and whenever I’m uncomfortable, I always use humor as kind of like a mask — and I went in and I see this doctor and I say, ‘Listen, doc, I think I’ve got a detached retina in my good eye.’ And he said, ‘Alright, well, let’s take a look, I’m gonna put some drops in you’re not gonna be able to see for a while.’ And I make a joke, I say, ‘Oh well, I guess I better get used to this view, ey?’ And he says, ‘Calm down, we’re not there just yet.’ And I was like, ‘We’re not f--ing there just yet? Jesus Christ.’ I was freaking out. And anyway, turns out I had a vitreous detachment.”
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Since suffering the initial eye injury, Bisping knew his time in the UFC was limited. One of his goals during that period was to make as much money as possible to provide for his family. Taking an ill-advised fight against Gastelum helped further that pursuit, although he admits it wasn’t the right decision.
“Anderson Silva failed a steroid test and Kelvin Gastelum needed another opponent,” Bisping said. “I was over-trained for GSP, and I was like, screw it, whatever, it is what it is, I’ll fly out there, get another payday. So, I went out there. So, listen, money’s one thing and legacy is another. You can’t buy a legacy. So, I do regret doing that Kelvin Gastelum fight, because I had no business doing that.
“I was over-trained. In fact, I didn’t train for that fight whatsoever. I was overtrained from the GSP one. Then I went on the piss for a couple of weeks, and then flew out to China with my mates, you know what I mean? He was training for the biggest fight of his life, I had already been choked out a couple of weeks ago. So, the conditions weren’t right. But there was a lot of money on the table, but I knew I was almost done. And for me, that’s why I got into this, I got into it to give my family a better life. And as I said, I won’t go into the actual number, but it was a big number, it was a huge number. And I’m like, alright, well I’ll go out and collect that, and I’ll fly out to China.”
While Bisping briefly teased a farewell fight beyond that, he would officially call it a career in May 2018. The risk of one last fight on home soil far outweighed the reward in the end.
“So I said I was going to be done fighting, but I did contemplate another fight in London,” Bisping said on his podcast. “That never happened. Probably a good thing. Everybody told me not to fight. I was actually negotiating with the UFC to fight Rashad Evans in London. It’s probably a good thing that never happened.”
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