Britain had not yet placed its stamp on the world of mixed martial arts, a world which was dominated by American, as well as Brazilian stars. A culture and rich history of pugilism enveloped combat sports athletes across the pond. After all, boxing did indeed come to be a uniform outfit in London 1867 when the Marquess of Queensbury Rules were first published, it was to be expected many of Britain’s top combatants would veer toward the sport of boxing.
A young British kid at the age of eight decided he wanted to take a different route to combat sports. Michael “The Count” Bisping took up the art of Jiu Jitsu, only to take his first actual bout, seven years later at Britain’s first no holds barred affair, at the age of fifteen. Bisping would later see a transition in kickboxing where be amassed a successful run on the British professional kickboxing circuit. The martial arts career of Michael Bisping had begun.
Bisping began his mixed martial arts career in 2004 Pride & Glory 2: Battle of the Ages. Bisping rode an unblemished record of fourteen wins into the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter house for the organization’s third season of the reality show, second featuring the Light Heavyweight division, which was at the time considered the premier division in the sport of mixed martial arts. Bisping bested his opposition at each round of the show, winning his season. Seeing his record go to 18-0 overall, 4-0 inside the Octagon, Bisping drew Rashad Evans, the former Heavyweight winner on The Ultimate Fighter show. Bisping suffered the first loss of his career, a loss which he came to the realization he was too small in stature for the light heavyweight division, prompting a permanent drop to the Middleweight division (though many scored the fight for Bisping).
Considering placement for the all-time greats of any sport can be a topic encompassing much heated stances of debate. The sport of mixed martial arts is surely no exception to that rule. It is likely to be asked to one hundred different people who follow the sport, to name their personal legends of the sport, assuredly to yield a plethora of varying lists. The question can be, where does Michael Bisping belong on such a list, or does he even belong at all? The short answer is yes, the long-winded answer examines exactly why, and to be completely forthcoming, it is quite a clear decision to include him.
While examining his abundance of wins, we can be here for awhile. Rather, let us examine the losses of his career. Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Tim Kennedy, Luke Rockhold, Georges St. Pierre, and most recently Kelvin Gastelum. Every single fighter on that list, with the exception of Kelvin Gastelum, has either held a title, or has contended for a title in the UFC, Pride, or Strikeforce. Four of those fighters are sure-fire Hall of Fame members when their respective careers are concluded. Another five of those fighters have either been flagged for banned substances or have been competing with an exemption to use, a now-banned substance when they defeated Bisping. If there were a crop to suffer defeat to, this would likely be an excusable bunch to the highest order.
Another variable to consider has been Bisping’s willingness to step into fights in order to save cards as a replacement to a removed opponent. Finally, you come to the culmination of his career, a first-round knockout win over then Middleweight Champion, Luke Rockhold, avenging a previous loss via submission (he also avenged his loss to Henderson). Bisping, prior to Conor McGregor, was the all-time highest earning employee of the organization; a true man of the company in every regard.
His accomplishments either match or exceed many of such names considered to be legends of the sport. So ask yourself, if you do not have Michael Bisping, a fighter who held a belt, fought his entire career cleanly, stepped into save multiple events, has been a model of consistency (been in top 10 rankings for 10 years straight), and sustainability in your list of “all-time greats”, who do you have there instead, and why? It is time to count him in.