The brash Brit retires as one of the best to ever do it
Article courtesy of Paul Miller of MMA Freaks.
I’ve written a version of this article in my mind a dozen different times since it was announced that Michael Bisping was going to face Georges St. Pierre last November. Even before I began penning articles for Nick Portella MMA. I felt compelled to put my complicated thoughts about Michael Bisping’s career down in writing. But something stayed my hand. It just never seemed like the right time to make the challenging and unpopular case I was building in my mind – that Michael Bisping is among the greatest to ever fight in MMA. After his loss to St. Pierre and then Gastelum, it certainly didn’t seem like the right time. But now, upon his retirement announcement, the time is finally perfect.
Michael Bisping’s career is one of ups and downs: TUF title winner; impressive win streaks peppered by title-hunt derailing losses at the most inopportune times; a back-and-forth win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss streak that devoured three years between 2011 to 2014; a career-capping win streak followed by a triumphant reign as undisputed champion, punctuated by two frustrating losses; and finally retirement with a record of 31-9-0.
Bisping has always been an exciting fighter. Possessing the best gas-tank in the Middleweight division, excellent footwork/head movement, and all-around boxing skill, he was always sure to bring high-energy action to the cage. Through it all, over his 12-year career, we watched him mature from the abrasive, unlikable, brash, trash-talking personality of British MMA, into a funny, likable, still brash, tongue-in-cheek trash-talking personality of international MMA, with a cushy media gig to boot. Toward the end of his career, it never seemed to me like Michael Bisping took himself too seriously, and I found that refreshing. The twinkle in his one good eye always seemed to be winking at the camera, making sure everyone understood that the persona was not the man, and vice versa.
After Bisping won the UFC Middleweight title in a spectacular KO victory against Luke Rockhold that quite literally nobody saw coming, he naturally garnered more attention than ever before. The fact that he is a staple presence in MMA media on Fox Sports drew even more eyes. When he earned back his loss to Dan Henderson, and then defeated Anderson Silva – that’s when my mind began to formulate around an idea: Bisping (with the cooperation of the UFC) was brilliantly navigating his tenure as Middleweight Champion by matching up against legends of the sport that he had a good chance to beat so late in his storied career. When the St. Pierre fight was announced, I saw the pattern, and began to settle into an idea: a victory against Georges St. Pierre could solidify Bisping’s place among the greatest of all time.
After his losses to St. Pierre and then Gastelum, that notion seems ridiculous in hindsight. But if Bisping HAD beaten St. Pierre – which I believe he had the chance to do – he would have beaten Luke Rockhold, Dan Henderson, Anderson Silva, and Georges St. Pierre, all in a row. Never mind that they were all in various late stages of their careers themselves. Never mind that he was deftly avoiding the murderer’s row of the Middleweight division. It’s the great names on that list that had me fixated on this idea: by beating St. Pierre, I thought Bisping could have cemented his place in the GoAT conversation. Not that he would have been the GoAT; just that he could have logically been discussed among the GoAT.
But as history shows, he didn’t beat St. Pierre. Once more, Michael Bisping’s career would suffer a loss at the most inopportune time. His title run was ended, a last-ditch effort to go out with a win fizzled in his loss against Gastelum, and now, finally, he retires.
In his wake, he leaves legendary marks on MMA and the UFC. He is tied with Jim Miller for most fights in UFC history. He is tied with Georges St. Pierre and Donald Cerrone for most wins in UFC History. He has the most wins in UFC Middleweight history. He has the most Unanimous Decision wins in UFC Middleweight history. He has the most Significant Strikes landed in UFC history. He is tied with Cain Velasquez and Chuck Liddell in 4th place with 10 KO wins. He only trails Frankie Edgar in total minutes in the Octagon. He’s a TUF champion. He’s a former undisputed UFC champion. He has beaten legends: Luke Rockhold; Anderson Silva; Dan Henderson. He put British MMA on the map.
Whether you love him or hate him, Michael Bisping is headed for the UFC Hall of Fame, and there could hardly be a better case for anyone’s induction. He may not be the GoAT, but he’s a legend of MMA, and he will be sorely missed.