Michael Bisping fought 13 times in the years between 2008 and early-2013, the stretch of his career which will ultimately go down as his prime. Of those 13 fights, Bisping won nine. The other four contests saw Bisping fall short in title eliminators against men who would later admit to testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) usage, pop dirty for banned substances, or dabble in a little bit of both.
So it's fair to say few fighters have been so tangentially affected by the PED problem in MMA quite like Bisping, the once-divisive Brit who at 36 years old has slowly evolved into the elder statesmen of the middleweight division.
However the sport's landscape now is a far different one than the free-for-all Bisping rose up in. Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre's retirement ignited a discussion on PEDs that shows no sign of slowing, and for that Bisping is grateful.
"Obviously the benefit of hindsight is a great thing," Bisping, who fights C.B. Dollaway at UFC 187, said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I respect GSP for what he said. I really do. Looking back now, now I'm a little wiser, a little more mature. I certainly understand what he was saying, and now I understand how rife the problem was. I think I was a little naïve in also understanding how much of a problem it was."
The problem reached a head earlier this year when Anderson Silva, the former kingpin of the middleweight division, tested positive for anabolic steroids in a pair of UFC 183 drug tests. Silva's case was compounded by several other similar cases. Now the UFC is expected to launch a dramatically reshaped drug policy this July, while the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) is in continued discussions about revamping its own testing policies.
Still, it's not lost on Bisping that his three most important losses came at the hands of Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, and Vitor Belfort -- three men who subscribed to the idea that they wouldn't be able to fight without TRT because of pre-existing medical conditions. The controversial synthetic testosterone treatment was ultimately banned by the NAC in Feb. 2014, and Sonnen was subsequently forced into retirement under a pair of PED busts. However Henderson has competed three times since the ban, while Belfort is expected to challenge for the middleweight title on May 23, despite having failed a drug test just 13 months ago.
"Certainly the whole TRT thing, people said at the time they needed TRT or they couldn't fight. Well a majority of those guys now aren't on TRT and they still fight, so it was just a blatant cheat," Bisping said.
"Looking back, yeah, of course there's a little bit of sour grapes. There's a little bit of ‘what if' and this and that. But ultimately, it's like I said before, I fought with injuries. I get headbutted and can't see, I carry on. I'm a fighter. And even though I knew they were on testosterone, even though I knew there was a good possibility they were taking steroids, I still chose to fight them. I live with those decisions and I stand by them. I don't regret a single thing."