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When Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe Retire, Michael Bisping Could Be Britain's Top Figther

As Michael Bisping prepares to fight Chris Leben in the main event at UFC 89 in England, this BBC article is a nice illustration of where mixed martial arts is now in the UK, and where it's going.

That MMA hasn't yet reached the mainstream is demonstrated by the fact that the BBC article links the words "mixed martial arts" to the sport's Wikipedia entry. Clearly, the BBC thinks there are a whole lot of Brits who still don't know anything about the sport.

But the central premise of the article is that the sport could reach a point in Great Britain where Bisping becomes a bigger star than any British boxer.

Currently, the top British boxing stars are Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe. When they retire, however, Bisping thinks British fans will increasingly flock to the UFC. From the BBC:
On Saturday, Bisping headlines a UK UFC show for the first time at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena and will be watched by a 10,000 sell-out. And, while asserting that UFC and boxing can co-exist, Bisping believes his sport's profile in this country can only get bigger.

"I've heard people say that boxing is something your dad might watch and UFC is something your kids might watch," middleweight Bisping, who fights American Chris Leben in Birmingham, told BBC Sport.

"The demographic the UFC are hitting is the 18-35s and they are very aggressive in the way they market themselves and have huge aspirations. In the next five years or so all the big fighters in the UFC will be household names in the UK - and the rest of the world."
Boxing is so ingrained in British culture that I don't know if MMA could ever surpass it in popularity. But the mere fact that it's being discussed is a sign of how far the UFC has come in England.