There is no hotter topic in MMA than Michael Bisping........... whether you like it or not.
It doesn't take a lot of looking around on your typical Mixed Martial Arts forum to come across the hot button topic of a certain trash talking fighter from across the pond. Depending on who you ask, Michael Bisping is either a top 5 UFC Middleweight contender, or a journeymen gatekeeper with no noteworthy wins on his record. His supporters will point to his longstanding resume of being a winner who is always just a fight or two away from a title shot. While his detractors will point to his losses to top contenders as proof that he doesn't have what it takes to be a serious threat in the 185 pound division. For most fighters, that would be where the debate would stop. But in the case of Michael Bisping, that's just where the debate starts.
There is just something about Michael Bisping that drives people crazy. It's more than criticism. It's evolved over the years into a hatred. It's anyone's guess as to where the hatred came from. Was it his mockery of the deaf Matt Hammil on Season three of The Ultimate Fighter? Was his pompous British attitude too much to sit through for 3 months on Spike Television, twice? Maybe for the American fans, could it be the idea that in a different life, Bisping would have employed effective range-based striking to defeat Mel Gibson by decision in the final scene of "The Patriot." Or could it be that despite all of the hatred, Michael Bisping is just that good? Because if the tabloid magazines have taught us anything, it's that the only thing we love more than a winner is to tear one down.
On paper, Michael Bisping has a resume that is nothing to be scoffed at. In a career of 29 fights which was spent mostly in the sport's premier organization's 185 pound division, the only losses accrued on his record have all come to former champions who have at one time or another held UFC or PRIDE belts from 203 pounds, all the way to heavyweight. With the lone exception being a razor thin decision loss to Chael Sonnen, a 2 time UFC middleweight, and one time UFC Light Heavyweight championship contender who aside from his mouth, is most famous for handing the greatest of all time- Anderson Silva, the worst beating of his career.
Before joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bisping amassed a perfect 10-0 record, with none of those fights reaching the judges. It should be noted that Bisping was an undersized Light Heavyweight at the time. Upon realization that he was simply too small to compete at 205 pounds, Bisping debuted at Middleweight in April of 2008 and instantly announced himself as a threat to the division with his one round thrashing of Charles McCarthy. A few fights later, including a respectable win over the always tough perennial fringe contender Chris Leben put Bisping in line for his first of what would become a series of "Number one contender" fights. The number one contender fights all have a few things in common. They have all been against highly ranked opponents, and "The Count" has come up short each and every time. Often in a fashion that is as spectacular as it is devastating. But after each loss, Bisping does what respected fighters do. He comes back; he always comes back.
In between understandable, if not forgivable losses to Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen, and Vitor Belfort, Bisping has always been able to rebound with impressive wins against highly regarded veterans such as Denis Kang, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Brian Stann, Jason Miller, and Alan Belcher. Using these rebound wins, Bisping has cemented his place in the rankings for as long, if not longer than any other middleweight. Simply put, the list of fighters who have been as good, for as long, is very short.
So why the hate? Why the debate? How can it constantly be at the fever pitch that it seems to always be at? Message boards across the MMA universe are perpetually filled with determined anti-Bisping rally cries. At the mere mention of his name, otherwise reasonable MMA fans become stuck in a violent tornado of fight stats, comparisons, and outright passionate ignorance. More than any other fighter today or for the last few years, the length that people go to discredit the British middleweight is astounding. With the hate-guided stroke of a few keys, wins against tough, respectable veterans like Denis Kang and Chris Leben become meaningless. Yoshihiro Akiyama and Brian Stann are instantly downgraded to journeymen status as soon as Bisping's hand is raised. Bisping has the ability to make talented strikers like Alan Belcher end up looking like sparring partners, while grapplers such as Dan Miller can't even make it a fight. However, the criticism of Bisping is in full force when a near lifeless Jason Miller is up stuck against the cage laughing while being punched in the face. While simultaneously no credit at all is given to Bisping for rendering Miller completely helpless to begin with.
A lot of people will point to his trash talking and overall cocky attitude as the reason for his dislike. But aren't we the same fan base that made Chael Sonnen a star? Countless fighters and athletes across all sports talk trash and are revered for it. What makes Bisping so different? Fans will often point out his disrespect towards the corner of Jorge Rivera after "Illegal knee-gate" marred an otherwise worthy victory. But surely fans can't forget the months of intense, albeit silly and often times uncomfortable to watch trash talk from the Rivera camp, can they? Jason Miller and Dan Henderson weren't exactly innocent in their exchanges with Bisping on their respected coaching stints of The Ultimate Fighter.
In my personal opinion, fans need a bad guy. And Michael Bisping is the absolute perfect bad guy. A trash talking British winner. Is there anything worse? He's the kind of guy whose smile alone can drive your blood pressure through the roof. Everyone works with someone they hate, and we as fans work with Michael Bisping. He is the embodiment of what we would have had to deal with if England would have won the war. Or better yet, he is the embodiment of why we went to war with England. it doesn't help that he moved to America and now lives a better American dream than most of us do. He has beaten up Americans for a living, talked trash while doing so and made a ton of cash while we as fans have been forced to sit by and watch, powerless to stop him. But does that make his fight record any worse?
In the end of the day, Michael Bisping is an above average middleweight fighter. I look at him the same way I look at Rich Franklin if Rich Franklin would have joined the UFC after Anderson Silva. He is good enough to beat 90% of the MW division, but just not good enough to get to the top two rungs of the ladder. I don't think anything will change for Bisping. Sure, his skills will deteriorate with time and he will eventually fall down the ladder even further, but nothing will change in the sense that people will still hate him. But when Bisping is gone, the sport will not only lose out on one of it's most talked about fighters. It will lose out on one the best MW's to ever compete in the division. After all, being the bridesmaid doesn't make you the ugliest girl in the room. And being the Buffalo Bills of number one contender fights means you were good enough to be in a lot of number one contender fights.