Last Saturday evening, one of the most polarizing figures on the UFC roster, entered the Octagon and defeated a man who is viewed as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. Michael “The Count” Bisping, long time veteran of the premier MMA promotion, took on Anderson Silva in what would be a 5 round bout that was full of emotion, wacky moments and full blown drama. In the end, “The Count” would take the unanimous nod, and with it, adding a much needed personal victory to his very long resume. But this would not be a clean victory, at one point appearing to have lost at the end of the third round, when he was on the receiving end of a devastating flying knee to the chin while his guard was down and was in a debate with referee Herb Dean over his mouth piece and whether the fight should be stopped or not. Bisping was saved by the bell.
Feb 27, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Anderson Silva (red gloves) competes against Michael Bisping (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
It seemed to be that social media was split on the decision overall, many having the bout for “The Spider”, including UFC President Dana White, who told Jon Anik and Dan Hardy (while telling the production staff that Old Man Dana wants the music turned down in the building) that he had the fight evenly split going into the fifth , with Silva taking the last round. I had Bisping winning rounds 1,2 and 4. However, in the end, while the Twitterverse was divided, it was clear that the staff over on the corporate side were clearly emotionally invested in seeing the British native pass this moment in time. So why is this? Why is it, that the man many have always viewed as the quintessential villain, especially earlier in his career, would seem to have so much emotional support from so many behind the scenes? This is a fighter who was on the receiving end of years of ridicule after suffering one of the most vicious knockouts we have ever seen at the hands of one Dan Henderson. Let’s take a look at a few things:
Over the years, Bisping had developed a reputation of being the fighter who was solid all around, but never had that one area of his game that excelled. He wasn’t a great wrestler, didn’t have knockout power, or superior jiu jitsu skills. He would simply go into a fight and put on strong performances. The majority of his bouts always had a great build, as he is a master at getting under the skin of his opponent (remember Jorge Rivera?). But for some reason, that next-level breakthrough eluded him. Anyone who has followed the UFC for the past 10 years, understands that Michael Bisping has been viewed as that middle-of-the-road fighter that was good, but not great in the grand scheme of the fighter’s landscape. Entering the contest, viewers knew they would get a fight out of him, but when the fight was the most important, he couldn’t deliver . In the same breadth, if you have been following for the past 10 years, you see a man who has put in a load of work behind the scenes. Honing his analytical skills on FOX Sports, watching him with his family, spinning tunes at a night club and walking in the park with Ariel Helwani, giving a very poignant interview where he looks over his entire mixed martial arts career inside the Octagon.
A Bisping loss was always met with a “ah well, he’s just that gate keeper who will never smell a title shot” sort of approach. Then there were the controversial bouts where his losses came at the hands of men who were exploiting the TRT-era of MMA. Then there was that horrible eye injury that nearly ended his career. Then there was that complete obliteration of another fighter who came into question on his possible PED usage in Cung Le. And THEN there was Luke Rockhold virtually running through him with a question mark kick, and a one arm guillotine. The MMA career of Bisping has been a roller coaster. But in the midst of this wacky ride, birthed a man who we would come to know as being real, being raw, and being himself at every turn. In an era when athletes try their best to put on their good boy pants in front of the camera, all the while participating in hit-and-runs, domestic assaults, PED use and the like, Bisping would slowly but surely gain the respect of his peers, while selflessly carrying a nation on his back.
Feb 27, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Michael Bisping reacts after his fight against Anderson Silva during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
It was clear that last Saturday night, that not only was Great Britain in Michael Bisping’s corner, but the production staff, announce team, and many others. Those who may not have been fans of his all along, would find themselves rooting for him. A heart stopping knockdown in the second, getting virtually KO’d himself at the end of the third. Watching him fight through a steady stream of blood on his face and a trashed nose in the fourth, while actually having his highest volume output in the fight after a devastating ending to the 3rd. Eating a front face kick that once nearly decapitated Vitor Belfort, to hearing his name called in a unanimous decision in the end. When Michael Bisping raised his hands, let out a roar, left the Octagon to kiss is his mother (while getting blood all over her white dress), and returned to the cage to give a tearful post fight interview, it had all come full circle. This time, regardless of the controversy, it was good. Good for Bisping, with all he has been through chasing the unicorn of the former Middleweight Champion, he got his due.
I never thought I would hear myself say this when referring to Michael Bisping, but, here’s one for the good guy.
Mikey Rukus is known as MMA’s Fight Music Producer, creating custom walkout music and theme music for fighters and organizations all over the world to include some of the UFC’s most well known athletes. You can catch him live tweeting with fans during MMA events. Follow Mikey on Twitter at @MikeyRukus.