Michael Bisping may have announced his retirement from mixed martial arts but the legacy that “The Count” has left in the sport will live on.
After a 14-year career, which saw the former Cage Rage light heavyweight champion -become a pioneer for MMA in the UK, Bisping has made a glorious exit.
It’s difficult to ignore the outstanding impact that the 39-year-old has had both in and out of the Octagon, contributing heavily to the growth of the UFC’s reputation on these shores while, fittingly, becoming the first British athlete to be crowned a champion with the organisation.
Call him controversial, out-spoken or brash, love him, hate him or feel indifferently about him, Bisping has undoubtedly established himself as one of the most successful fighters in history, renowned and revered for his unquenchable thirst to succeed, particularly when faced with adversity.
In his quest to become the best on the planet at middleweight, Bisping suffered many knock downs, set backs and dead ends. Admirably, those stumbling blocks only made him stronger and more determined.
After watching the film ‘Journeyman’ on a plane, a portrayal of an ageing prizefighter which ultimately influenced his decision, Bisping said: “I was watching this movie last night and I just thought, it ain’t worth it.
“I mean, what else am I going to do? I’ve won the belt, I’ve had tons of wins, I’ve done everything that I set out to achieve. What’s the point in flogging a dead horse?
“Not that I’m a dead horse, but what’s the point? I’ve done everything that I set out to achieve, and fortunately now I’ve used my platform to open other doors.
“You know, you’ve got to know when to walk away. I’m almost 40 years old, the time is now.
“So, I want to say, first of all, thank you to my wife. Without her, it wouldn’t have happened. That’s a fact. She was incredible every single step of the way.
“My children. My dad. My dad was amazing. And of course everyone in the UK and around the world that supported me. So, yeah, there you go. Great career. That’s that. Thank you everybody.”
Bisping, who hails from Clitheroe, started out against Steve Mathews at Pride and Glory 2: Battle of the Ages in Newcastle upon Tyne, forcing a submission with an armbar after just 38 seconds.
He retires with an official MMA record of 30-9 as well as a host of all-time UFC records, including the most wins, the most fights, the most significant strikes landed, and the second-most total fight time in UFC history.
For just under a decade, ever since his triumph over Eric Shafer in Las Vegas at UFC 66, the opportunity to challenge for the title proved elusive, defeats to Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort obstructed his progression and painted him out to be a perennial contender.
However, the winds of change hit the sails of Bisping’s career in the latter stages with a phenomenal five-fight win streak over C.B. Dollaway, Thales Leites, Anderson Silva, Rockhold, and Dan Henderson — the latter two of which saw Bisping capture then defend the UFC middleweight strap.
“Congrats to Michael on a Hall of Fame career,” Bisping’s manager Audie Attar said. “The Ultimate Fighter winner, two-time Ultimate fighter coach, winningest fighter in UFC history and first British UFC Champion in history.
“I’ve been honored to work with Michael towards the championship years and have watched him fight through trials and tribulations as he was a perennial title contender, ultimately reaching the sport’s greatest achievement by winning a UFC Championship.
“Through all that he has achieved, the one thing I’m most proud of is how hard he fought for his family’s future, risking his life on the line each time he stepped into the octagon.
“I am proud to call Michael a client, but more importantly a dear friend. Now it’s time for Michael to achieve greatness in the next phase of his professional career, and the future looks bright, Mr Bisping. Thank you for all that you’ve done for our sport.”
When Bisping forced Rockhold to ground on two occasions with a couple of crushing left hooks three minutes in to their battle at UFC 199, and then followed up with a three-shot combination against the walls of the cage, supporters and critics alike shared in his joy and jubilation.
Bisping, who suffered complications with his right eye in 2013, forcing a 12-month break, was overthrown by Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217 where a rear-naked choke in the third round did the damage.
Then, following defeat to Kelvin Gastelum in his final appearance in Shanghai 21 days later, where he was later diagnosed him with a vitreous detachment in his left eye by doctors, Bisping decided that enough was enough.
Despite talks to sign out against Rashad Evans, there’ll be no farewell fight. “I’ve teased this for a long time now, I might fight again, I might not.
“Unfortunately it’s not a fight that I’m announcing. I am going to announce my official retirement from mixed martial arts,” Bisping said.