In case you missed it back on Saturday, November 4th, UFC 217 took place in the Big Apple at Madison Square Garden Arena. For my money, this was the most highly anticipated fight card of the year. From top to bottom the card was stacked.
UFC 217 featured not one…not two…but THREE UFC title fights. Heck, even the preliminary bouts were expected to be exciting. When does that happen?. The headliner for the night or as Floyd Mayweather would say “the A-side” of the night was Michael “The Count” Bisping. Bisping came into the fight as the man with the most victories inside the UFC with 20. Ultimately, as the night came to a close he lost his UFC middleweight belt via submission in the 3rd round to the former welterweight champion Georges St.Pierre and two other champions going into fight night lost their titles as well. UFC 217 was a special card a card that featured a first in UFC history. Three titles changed hands and nobody evidently was more bothered by his championship loss than Bisping.
Bisping elected to stay in New York City for the rest of the week and take in the big city with his wife and kids. Turning a negative into a proverbial positive I suppose. But little did he know an opportunity would fall right into his lap to redeem himself. The story goes as Bisping was driving out of NYC he was listening to Sirius XM MMA radio and heard the news that sent shock waves throughout the MMA community. Once considered the best fighter on the planet, the longtime former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva had tested positive for the 2nd time. Upon hearing the news Bisping texted Dana White, “I know a guy that just fought last week and he is okay to fight.” Dana’s response, “interesting.” They say history always repeats itself. In this case, history repeated itself several times. I feel like I have been here before. Bisping steps up. Dana responds quickly. Anderson Silva can’t stay clean. History has repeated itself and now Bisping is coming back a mere week after the worst loss in his entire MMA career to step into the octagon and fight a young up and comer fighter, and fellow Ultimate Fighter winner, Kelvin Gastelum on November 25th in Shanghai, China.
I really can’t believe this. This isn’t the smartest decision in the eyes of many fans but in the eyes or eye (bad joke) of Bisping this opportunity doesn’t look so bad. Bisping believes this opportunity is to simply right a wrong. An opportunity to get back into the win column. An opportunity to remind everyone that he is a true ultimate fighter. That when the chips are down he answers the call on two days, two weeks, and two hours notice. Bisping always makes that walk.
Upon hearing this news of the quick turnaround I sat at my desk pondering what to write and I couldn’t help but think as a longtime fan of Mixed Martial Arts I have seen the peaks and valleys in Michael’s career. Never did I ever anticipate that fight fans would rather see him fight than Anderson Silva. I know you’re probably asking yourself: what do you mean? Well let me tell you.
For the better part of a decade, Bisping embraced the heel role that so many iconic WWE personalities optimized before him. With heels, it was “rehearsed” or “choreographed” as Ric Flair proclaimed in the most recent ESPN 30 for 30 show. “The Count,” was the heel in an era filled with real bad guys. While he portrayed himself as in his own words, “somewhat of a jerk,” he did it to put himself and more importantly his country on the MMA map. He did. For years fight fans rooted to see him get completely knocked unconscious and I can admit, sometimes I was one of those fans but something changed.
As the years wore on I started to realized Michael Bisping has been the only fighter in his era to do things “the right way.” What most fight fans fail to realize is that the UFC did not implement the USADA (The United States Anti Doping Agency) drug testing program until 2015. Over the course of his career, Michael has suffered now eight defeats all of which were in the UFC. Of those eight defeats, Bisping fought and lost to three proven performance enhancing users in Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, and Chael Sonnen. All three fights were considered to be No. 1 contender bouts,” in which, if Bisping had won he would have been granted a title shot against… yep you guessed it, now known performance-enhancing user Anderson Silva.
Therefore, it is very easy to wonder what if when looking at the career of Michael Bisping. Had he competed in an era of the UFC with a level playing field he could have been a champion much sooner than he actually was. He could have been given the coveted title shot prior to his 10th year in the UFC. One thing we do know is that Bisping answers the call when he makes that walk to the octagon with his head held high and that he has accomplished everything that he set out to do as a Mixed Martial Artist. I know one thing is for sure, I will miss him when he is gone and I never thought I would say that.