British striker Michael “The Count” Bisping made his amateur debut at the age of 15-years old, competing in Britain’s first “no holds barred” event, Knock Down Sport Budo. The event was organized in large part by Paul Lloyd Davies, the man who had taught Bisping Yawara Ryu Jujutsu since the age of 8. Bisping would spend three more years studying with Davies before trying his hand at kickboxing after a brief sabbatical from training.
Under the tutelage of Allan Clarkin, owner of Black Knights Kickboxing, Bisping went on to win the Northwest Area Kickboxing Title as well as become a two-time Pro British Light-Heavyweight title holder. Bisping’s early days of combat sports are marked by frequent breaks in competition in order to work “real jobs”. Along with being a semi-successful Club DJ, Bisping spent his days between kickboxing matches working in slaughterhouses and factories; the restless Bisping also found work as a postman, salesman, plasterer, laborer, furniture maker and upholsterer. As Bisping’s teens gave way to his twenties, he found himself forced to give up training for full-time work.
After a few years away from competition, in 2003 Bisping began to get the itch to train again. He contacted his old Yawara Ryu teacher Davies, and found him teaching at Master Salah’s MMA Gym in Manchester, England. With Davies as his trainer and manager, Bisping made his professional MMA debut in April 2004 with a 38-second submission victory. Three fights into his pro career Bisping became the Cage Rage Light-Heavyweight Champion. By the end of his sixth fight he had added the Cage Warriors Light-Heavyweight Championship and by the end of his seventh fight, the FX3 Light-Heavyweight Championship as well.
Bisping entered the third season of The Ultimate Fighter a perfect 10-0. He went on to win exhibition victories over Kristian Rothaermel and Ross Pointon before defeating Josh Haynes via TKO at the Ultimate Fighter 3 Finale, securing the six-figure contract and adding “TUF Champion” to his growing list of accomplishments. Bisping’s string of 13 finishes by knockout or submission came to an end with a controversial split decision over fellow TUF 3 alumni Matt Hamill. Bisping’s next fight against another undefeated Ultimate Fighter winner, Rashad Evans, would be a night of firsts for him, as it was the first UFC card ever headlined by a British fighter.
The split decision loss to Evans at UFC 78 prompted Bisping’s move to the middleweight division, a move he would make in April of 2008, a few weeks after the four-year anniversary of his mixed martial arts debut. Since the drop to middleweight, Bisping has gone 9-4 in the division. He has made three separate runs at the title and came up on the losing end of every title eliminator opportunity offered, suffering a disappointing decision loss to Chael Sonnen and two highlight reel knockouts by Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort. In a stint as coach on the Ultimate Fighter – Season 9, Bisping’s team remains the only team to sweep the entire contest.
At age 34, Bisping is looking to start another run towards the middleweight title. His first step on that road is Roufusport fighter Alan Belcher. Both are coming off a loss to recent middleweight title challengers Belfort and Yushin Okami, respectively. Bisping recently made it clear that he plans on making Belcher’s stay as a co-main eventer a short one.
The fight is set for April 27, 2013 in Newark, N.J. at UFC 159.
Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski – USA Today Sports