This is not a story of an unbeatable demigod, not of a myth either. It’s a story of a man going toe to toe with the legends & demons of the game. A man who walked the path of honesty and hard work. A man who had unmovable willpower. A man who stood up for the right thing, lived by it and fought for the sport to be cleaned. A man who just didn’t know what giving up was. It’s a story that will keep inspiring generation after generation. It’s a story of an ordinary man achieving extraordinary things through sheer grittiness. It’s the story of former UFC middleweight champion Michael “The Count” Bisping.
Before I begin to narrate, I’d request you to do one small exercise. Close any one of your eyes. Raise both of your hands to your shoulders’ length, point your fingers inwards and try to touch them in one motion. Now, you must be well aware of the difficulty of percept depth with only one eye. Human being requires both the eyes to percept the depth accurately. You’ll understand the relevance of this exercise by the end of this narration.
On February 28th 1979, in a British military camp located in Nicosia, Cyprus, Michael Bisping was born. He spent most of his childhood in a small town of Lancashire, Clitheroe. He was very hyperactive as a child. The studies never really excited him. The art of fighting and combat sports grabbed his eye ever since he was a child. Michael started training in Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 7.
His dad would take him to Nottingham every day for the training. His dad always thought he had a talent for it. He competed in U-13, U-14 & U-16 Jiu-Jitsu competitions almost winning all of them. After marrying his wife and becoming a father of 3 children, Michael’s perspective towards combat sports changed. After encouragement from his former coach and seeing the sport of MMA booming, Michael decided to pursue a career in MMA and started training for it.
In 2004, Michael made his professional debut at “Pride & Glory 2: Battle of the Ages” against Steve Matthews. The fight ended in mere 38 seconds with Micheal submitting Matthews in armbar. He became Cage Rage Champion, Cage warrior champion and FX3 champion. Michael’s first ten professional fights didn’t last past round 1 with Micheal coming on top in every one of them. It was a sign of things to come.
After participating and winning the US reality show “UFC: The Ultimate Fighter Season 3” Michael became a fan favourite. Michael had a spectacle to watch. His Charm, cheeky sense of humour and presence of mind made him an excellent talker on the mic. Micheal had a polarising persona, you’d either love him and watch his fight to see him win or hate him and watch his matches to see him lose and eat his words but you’d definitely watch. He was a guaranteed crowd draw. Michael from the start of his career criticised and condemned the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. He’d consider people using them cheat and an embarrassment for the sport.
On January 19 2013, in a fight with Vitor Belfort (TRT user), a head kick to the right side of the head detached the retina of his right eye from his eyeball. Although his vision through the right eye was pretty much non-existent since the incident and he’d clean the medical test by the skin of his teeth, the vision he had in his right eye, 20-200 is considered clinically blind. The depth perception was a herculean task for him. It’d take him two or three attempts to do a simple task such as grabbing a bottle. This could have been a career-ending injury for any normal MMA fighter but not Michael. Michael was born to fight, not only in the cage but in real life too.
He changed his entire style and went on to earn a title shot against Luke Rockhold on 8th November 2014. Many fans, experts and journalists thought this was the last shot at the title for Micheal who always seems to come up short in title bouts. Life once again wasn’t kind to “The Count”. Luke Rockhold submitted Michael Bisping in the second round. Once again Michael came up short on the big stage. At this time, even his die-hard fans had given up hopes of seeing him getting the gold. Giving up wasn’t the thing Michael knew. He again stood back up and after two consecutive wins, challenged Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest fighter of all time in MMA. Nobody gave Michael a chance of winning this fight.
Anderson Silva made even the great fighters look like amateurs. Michael was a mere “Gatekeeper”. This fight was a modern era David vs Goliath. And as the legends say, David trumped the Goliath. Michael Bisping outclassed Anderson Silva and won via unanimous decision. Yet, the end goal was yet to be achieved. After the scheduled opponent for Luke Rockhold got injured and pulled out of the fight just two weeks before the scheduled date, Michael volunteered to fill up the shoes.
This was really the last chance for Michael. This is where it all came down to. Years of hard work, years of sacrifices, years spent in the gym, worshipping the art, staying true to the sport. It was the most intense two weeks of his life. He’d often not sleep thinking about the fight but he knew he had everything that a fighter requires to be a champion, it was just the matter of execution. On the 4th of June 2016, Michael “The Count” Bisping connected a left-hand hook on the chin of Luke Rockhold that shattered the reign of the champion. In the career which spanned over 12 years, God was on his side for the very first time. Rather he forced them to be on his side. The childhood dream imagined in the small room of Clitheroe had just come true. Michael Bisping was finally the champion. This was the only moment we saw the emotional side of him. The tears of joy just kept running down his eyes. It is the most fulfilling moment I’ve ever witnessed in MMA.
Michael finished his MMA career with a record of 30 wins and 9 losses. Chael Sonnen, a former MMA fighter and a former opponent of Michael said, ” Michael was a fighter at whom anybody could point and say I can beat him but there is no fighter who can point at him and say he can’t beat me“. On the morning of 3rd October 2019, on his podcast, while answering the question on how he hid his eye injury, “I wore my dark glasses as I said to hide from the commission. Get a load of this, check this out.” Bisping said as he pulled down his lower right eyelid, shoved his fingers in and pulled out a prosthetic eyeball that covered his real, less-than-healthy eye. “That’s why I used to wear sunglasses, baby boy.” This sent a frenzy into the MMA community.
Fans began speculating that he might have fought with the glass eye. It was a sensational thing. The UFC president Dana White when asked about it said, “He cleared medicals and he had that surgery and had that problem with his eye. And you would never know it. The guy, aside from popping his eyeball out of his head, you would never know that Michael Bisping has an issue. I have no clue if he fought with a glass eye”.
We’ll probably never know if it’s true or not but it doesn’t change the fact that Michael Bisping is an example of what a man can achieve through sheer hard work and determination. Whenever life threw a curveball at him, he didn’t give up, he stood up again and again only to knock it out of the park further. Michael Bisping, to his last fight, remained honest to the sports, kept loyal to the art that gave him everything and stood against all the people who tried to cheat the sports with PED and steroids.
During the era he fought in, almost everyone in his division was on various kinds of PEDs. To draw a comparison, he is the Batman in the justice league, achieving greatness through nothing but his fists and grit. The reason he inspires the most is, he’s the epitome of what a man can achieve if he decides, what a man can overcome if he’s determined, a man can even go toe to toe with the worst of the worst the fate has to throw at you and yet carve his own legacy. The legend of Michael Bisping will live on as long as the sport goes on. The “One-eyed king” will always rule the hearts of the fans of MMA.