Michael Bisping is the best there is, maybe the best there ever was in mixed martial arts. At getting under the skin of not only his opponents but potential opponents, fans, media and just about everyone else connected with the sport.
Luke Rockhold hated him so much he was almost apoplectic. He’s been called out more than just about anyone, so badly do UFC fighters want to put hands on him. As a very talented broadcaster on Fox, he is not above using his position to fire zingers at any of his peers. If he thinks it will get a reaction, Bisping will say it.
If there is such a thing as the most hated man in MMA, Bisping would be it. All of that, though, ignores one very obvious truth that we’re only now coming to late in the man’s career: Michael Bisping is one of the best fighters in the UFC’s history.
No, he’s no Demetrious Johnson, or Jon Jones, or Anderson Silva. He doesn’t have the physical gifts of a Georges St-Pierre, or the long roster of stars defeated like B.J. Penn.
But the 38-year-old Bisping has fought more, and won more, than any fighter in the nearly 24-year history of the UFC. And he’s improbably won the promotion’s middleweight title in a stunning upset that ranks among the most significant upsets ever.
Even St-Pierre, who will end a nearly four-year retirement on Nov. 4. When he challenges Bisping for the middleweight belt at Madison Square Garden in New York. In the main event of UFC 217, acknowledges that Bisping hasn’t gotten his just due from the public.
Asked if he was surprised Bisping was the champion, St-Pierre didn’t hesitate before responding.
“No, not really, and I think if he would fight Luke Rockhold again, he would beat him again,” – St-Pierre said.
GSP Talks Michael Bisping
Now, this could be St-Pierre delivering the platitudes about an upcoming opponent that is typical in this sport. Rockhold, after all, was a massive favourite at UFC 199 in 2016 when Bisping knocked him cold in the first round to win the belt.
He’d defeated Michael Bisping a year-and-a-half earlier in a one-sided, decisive manner. And Bisping took the fight against Rockhold on two weeks’ notice as a late replacement for Chris Weidman. But St-Pierre went on, heaping praise upon Bisping in front of a small group of reporters in what seemed a sincere assessment of his rival.
“I think Michael is like a good, old wine,” St-Pierre said. “He’s gotten better with time.”
Bisping is never going to get the acclaim that he deserves. He started out as an underdog and the perception of him hasn’t changed. But he has 20 wins in the UFC, more than anyone has ever compiled, and there’s no overlooking that no matter what one thinks of his competition.
And while most of his wins have come out of what would be considered the top five in his division, and win in the UFC is significant. In addition, he’s not only beaten Rockhold, but he’s got victories over Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson and Cung Le, among many others.
But Bisping’s talents in the cage are overlooked because of his trash talk. The “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast of the Maple Leafs-Canadiens game Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal opened with Bisping putting his title belt at centre ice and challenging St-Pierre to touch it, as boos rained down upon him.
During their recent media tour, St-Pierre could barely finish a sentence without Bisping interrupting him. At a news conference at the Hockey Hall of Fame last week in Toronto, St-Pierre was asked about the impact that legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach would have upon him.
As St-Pierre answered, Bisping, cut in.
“Hey, ‘Freddie Roach, Freddie Roach, Freddie Roach,’ ” Bisping said. “That’s all we hear these days. What about Firas Zahabi, he’s been with you for years. Why don’t you give Firas a shout out? [Expletive] Freddie. He’s jumped on the bandwagon at the last minute. What about Firas? Come on, shout out your home team. Shout out Tri-Star.”