Demian Maia explains just how significant a role Michael Bisping is playing in British MMA 5 years ago

Demian Maia explains just how significant a role Michael Bisping is playing in British MMA

When Demian Maia praised Michael Bisping on Friday afternoon, it seemed like less of an attempt to win over the Manchester crowd and more of a genuine expression of admiration.

Maia is supremely respectful at the worst of times but that should take nothing away from the praise he showered on the reigning UFC middleweight champion.

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Maia, who used to compete in Bisping's 185lbs division, is now pushing for a shot at welterweight gold and is likely next up for the winner of Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson but he went against the recent trend of pumping himself up in the hope of talking himself into his desired fight when he exhibited typical class during a Q&A event in Manchester.

Prior to Bisping's upcoming defence of his title against Dan Henderson at UFC 204, Maia spoke about just how important a role 'The Count' is playing in popularising martial arts in the United Kingdom.

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"I really like that Bisping is the champion right now," Maia said on Friday. "Not just because of his history and that he's a great fighter but also because it's very important to spread the sport and have a British champion, the first British champion.

"Especially in a country like England and Great Britain that you have such a strong and long tradition in combat sports like boxing. It's very important to have Bisping right now so I'm very glad for you guys and for him."

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Maia is arguably the most talented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner ever to try his hand at MMA and it is his traditional martial arts background that set him down the road of becoming an honourable representative of the sport.

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But his smothering ground control doesn't mean he can't appreciate the skills of fighters from striking backgrounds and the Brazilian continued to explain his respect for Bisping's ability to grow and adapt to the ever-evolving sport of mixed martial arts.

"Bisping is a guy who I really like to watch fight," Maia added. "He's a guy who is always evolving. He's been in this game for a long time, in the UFC for like nine years... more than that.

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"He's a guy who is always developing. I remember I was supposed to fight him in my last fight as a middleweight. I was supposed to fight him in Chicago but they switched and put him against Chael Sonnen and put me against Chris Weidman.

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"I remember that I was very impressed, even though he lost the fight, it was very tight and he was able to take Chael down in the fight.

"So he's a guy who a lot of people underestimate. A lot of people think 'He's a guy to beat' but he proved those people are not right. I've been saying that for a long time.

"He's very good and he's always developing. He's not the same Michael Bisping from ten years ago and he showed that against a guy who was one of the toughest in the game.

"He got the title against Luke Rockhold who is a monster and I really admire Mike and that his effort and work after all these years has finally paid off."

Amen to that!

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