Since coming off the back of two straight losses, Michael “The Count” Bisping has toyed with the idea of one final fight in front of his home fans. However, yesterday on his Believe You Me podcast, the former UFC middleweight champion announced that he has officially retired from the sport following more complications with his eye.
“So obviously I’ve teased this for a long time now, I might fight again, I might not. And unfortunately, it’s not a fight that I’m announcing. I am going to announce my official retirement from mixed martial arts,” Bisping said.
In light of this latest news lets take a look back at the career of the 39-year old Englishman.
Bisping grew up in Clitheroe, Lancashire. He began training Ju-jitsu at the age of eight, and at the age of 15 he competed as an amateur in Britains first “no holds barred” competition, a precursor to modern MMA, called Knock Down Sport Budo. But at the age of 18, Bisping quit martial arts in order to pursue a normal life and tried to hold down a regular job.
As you probably guessed this did not last long, not even a year after quitting martial arts the Englishman took up boxing, kickboxing, and karate, on the advice of Allan Clarkin – owner of Black Knights Kickboxing gym, who saw the bags of potential that Bisping possessed. “The count” endured a short but successful career in kickboxing, winning the North West Area title then the Pro British light heavyweight kickboxing title. After again, briefly quitting competition in 1998, Bisping made another return to kickboxing to take the Pro British light heavyweight title for a second spell. But all pressures of family and no financial gain from fighting, “The Count” once again stepped away from fighting full time and began regular jobs as an upholsterer, postman, tiler, plasterer, salesman and multiple factory jobs. But none of these jobs felt right for Bisping who then searched for greener pastures in fighting.
Bisping started his pro mixed martial arts in style and in just 18 months he gained a 10-0 pro record, became the Cage Warriors light heavyweight champion, and successfully defended his belt five times. In his 10 fight win streak, Bisping won six fights by knockout and four by submission. No other Englishman was surrounded with so much hype in mixed martial arts, and everybody was excited to see what was next for “The Count”.
Bisping got called up to take part in season three of The Ultimate Fighter, three straight finishes and the Englishman was crowned the winner of the series in the light heavyweight division. Bisping was now in the UFC, the dream was becoming real. “The Count” won his next three fights before losing a controversial split decision to Rashad Evans. Many MMA experts said they thought Bisping was too small to fight in the 205lb division, so with the support of Dana White, the Brit moved down to the middleweight division.
Bisping started off strong at 185lbs and won three straight fights – defeating Charles McCarthy, Jason Day and Chris Leben before losing to Dan Henderson in a title eliminator fight. Bisping followed this up with a fight of the night performance over Denis Kang before fighting and losing to Wanderlei Silva. Bisping then won four straight wins over Dan Miller, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera and Jason Miller but then lost to Chael Sonnen in another title eliminator. Bisping kept getting so close to a title shot, so close to his dream coming true, but losing the key fight before a title shot it seemed this would be the story of Bisping’s career. Bisping went 3-3 on his next 6 fights, beating Brian Stann, Alan Belcher and Cung Le and losing to Vitor Belfort (where Bisping sustained his initial eye injury) Tim Kennedy and Luke Rockhold.
Bisping sitting on a 25-7 record and struggling to procure any sort of win streak knew he had to change something if he was going to fulfil his destiny of lifting the UFC belt he so heavily desired. “The Count” fought C.B Dollaway and beat him convincingly, then he went on to beat Thales Leites. Bisping then fought former UFC middleweight king Anderson Silva. Bisping was hungry for this fight and dreamed of fighting the Brazilian mastermind for many years and the Brit beat him too on English Soil despite a flying knee which exploded Bispings face at the end of the third round. Then while on set filming a movie, Bisping got the call he had always dreamt of, Chris Weidman was injured and was unable to fight the champion, Luke Rockhold. So without a second thought, Bisping accepted the fight on only 17 days notice. He immediately flew home and began training and cutting the necessary weight to meet the 185lb weight limit for title contention.
At UFC 199, Bisping got his shot at the belt and revenge over Luke Rockhold who had beaten him just 14 months prior. Rockhold seemed arrogant and did not respect the presence and power that Bisping possessed. In the first round “The Count” landed a hook over Rockhold’s shoulder which dropped him, every Brit that stayed up past 4AM was up off their seat as Rockhold scrambled back to his feet, but Bisping landed yet another hook before landing three final strikes to the face of the American and the ref stopped the fight. Bisping had done it, all the blood, sweat, and tears were worth it. Michael Bisping was the UFC middleweight champion of the world!
Bisping defended his belt and got a rematch with Dan Henderson at UFC 204 in Manchester and Bisping emerged victorious from that fight, but later lost the belt to Georges Saint Pierre at UFC 217. Just three weeks later Bisping stepped in at short notice to fight the young and hungry Kelvin Gastelum but Bisping didn’t seem himself as he gained another loss.
But now Bisping has retired we can all look back and admire the career he has had. Bisping will always be remembered as a warrior and his legacy will always be talked about around the UFC. A place on the Hall of Fame surely awaits the 39-year-old, but this is not the last we will see of “The Count”. He is still ever present on the UFC shows and his face will pop up more and more in Hollywood movies as time goes on.
Thanks for the funny lines, rivalries and great fights Michael!