Michael Bisping – A Champion That Deserves More Respect
By Cameron Major
When you take a look through the UFC roster, most weight divisions carry a champion that is widely regarded as the best fighter in their weight class. A level of respect is shown and it’s acknowledged that he/she is the best fighter at that weight class. From Stipe Miocic to Amanda Nunes, we as fans recognise how hard the path to a championship is, what they’ve overcome and respect them as the best fighter in their respective division.
Then we turn to Michael Bisping, the current UFC Middleweight Champion and a veteran who has fought some of the greatest middleweight fighters of all time – Silva, Henderson, Belfort, Rockhold to name a few, yet still he struggles to command the respect that’s given to many of his peers.
Why is it that a fighter who has fought a number of all-time greats, provided consistent entertainment both in and out of the octagon and greatly helped increase the exposure of MMA across the UK and Europe not respected as much as some of the contenders in his division?
Yes, many may dislike Bisping for his trash talk, he doesn’t have the look of a Luke Rockhold or the otherworldly finishes of an Anderson Silva but what he does have is heart, excellent stand up and is as game as they come.
Bisping famously stepped in for an injured Chris Weidman at UFC 199 in June last year, coming off a movie set with two weeks’ notice to face Luke Rockhold - the then middleweight champion and a fighter in the prime of his career, a fighter that had destroyed Chris Weidman in his prior fight. Rockhold couldn’t lose, it was inconceivable, and he simply had too much in his arsenal for a Michael Bisping with a full training camp let alone a Bisping fighting on 10 days’ notice.
Bisping won. He knocked Rockhold out cold within the first round.
In that very moment, everything had come full circle for Bisping. From winning the third series of The Ultimate Fighter, to suffering one of the most brutal knockouts in UFC history from Dan Henderson, to delivering fight of the night honours and winning a decision in his home countries capital against arguably the greatest fighter of all time in Anderson Silva, to this.
Bisping had found his ultimate validation, he had done it, UFC Middleweight Champion. Nobody could take that from him. It was his.
Many looked at that fight and called “lucky shot”, lamented Rockhold for fighting with his chin out, showing a lack of respect for Bispings punching power. Few acknowledged the technique Bisping showed. The looping overhand that connected with Rockholds chin was a thing of beauty, a shot that was timed to perfection and a finish that was clinical.
Bisping would then go on to defend his title in an enthralling bout against Dan Henderson. A rematch that was years in the making yet drew criticism from fans and fighter alike due to Hendersons ranking in the division. To Bisping, this was more than just a title defence, this was an opportunity to avenge a lost that had haunted him for the majority of his UFC career, Henderson even had the image of his knockout used as his logo.
What followed was a rematch that exceeded expectations, delivered drama and allowed Bisping the opportunity for revenge. Bisping wouldn’t go on to KO Henderson in the brutal fashion Henderson had carried out on him in their last fight, but he would be able to lay claim to beating Henderson, by decision in his last UFC fight, in a war that will live long in the memory of all in attendance at Manchester that night.
Whilst Bisping may not be as naturally talented as a Jon Jones or adored by fans as much as a Conor McGregor, his story in the UFC is truly unique and shows why you should never give up on yourself. Few would have imagined that now at age 38, Bisping would sit atop the most stacked division in the UFC, but he is, and for my money he deserves a spot in the UFC Hall Of Fame.