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29th May 2018

The toughest fighter in UFC history has officially retired

'You've got to know when to walk away'

Ben Kiely

Michael Bisping was never the best fighter in the world, but he reached the zenith of the sport.

Michael Bisping was never the best striker in the world, but he beat up dynamic strikers on the feet. He wasn’t the world’s best grappler, but he held his own against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts and decorated wrestlers. He wasn’t a knockout artist or a submission specialist – he was just a determined motherfucker.

What made Bisping so great was his unparalleled resolve through the flames of adversity. He is the toughest S.O.B. in UFC history. ‘The Count’ retires holding the record for the most significant strikes, the joint-most fights and the joint-most wins in UFC history. These impressive numbers only serve as evidence of his remarkable perseverance. However, they don’t tell the full story.

Behind the numbers

Those figures don’t tell the story of how he came so close to a title shot on so many occasions only to fall at the last hurdle. He lost so many title eliminators but managed to win the belt at the first time of asking, coming in as a short notice replacement and knocking Luke Rockhold out in the first round.

Michael Bisping

Those digits don’t illustrate how he refused to pack it in after Vitor Belfort detached his retina with that seismic head kick. An injury which left him visually impaired and at a huge disadvantage in his profession. It can be fixed with surgery, but he opted to delay going under the knife to pursue his goals in fighting.

They don’t explain how he exacted revenge upon Dan Henderson for perhaps the most humiliating knockout in the history of the sport. Nor do they show how he picked himself up after nearly being decapitated by Anderson Silva’s knee to win a unanimous decision, or how he refused to tap against Georges St-Pierre, or how he stepped in to fight Kelvin Gastelum just three weeks after that loss.

Bisping entered the UFC as a villain to American audiences who weren’t a fan of his arrogant antics on the Ultimate Fighter, which he won. This negative image was only perpetuated by all the shit-talking and the infamous spitting incident during the Jorge Rivera fight. However, Bisping won over supporters with his sheer stubbornness.

No matter how much this unforgiving game wanted to chew him up and spit him out, he just refused to go away. That is until he absolutely had to.

“It ain’t worth it.”

There had been rumblings of a possible retirement fight, but Bisping made it official on his Believe You Me podcast. He has finally called time on his career as a prizefighter.

“Obviously I’ve teased this for a long time now. ‘I might fight again.’ ‘I might not.’ Unfortunately, it’s not a fight I’m announcing. I’m going to announce my official retirement from mixed martial arts. It’s been a long journey. I started in 2003. So 15 years as a professional fighter. 12 or 13 years in the UFC. You know, you can’t do it forever. I’ve done it for a long time.”

Bisping’s issues with his right eye have been well-documented. However, he revealed on the podcast that he actually started having problems with his other eye after Kelvin Gastelum knocked him out.

“Alright, I’ll get into it. After the Gastelum fight, I went to a party with all my team and my friends who had flown in to watch. We went to a club and because it’s dark, I kept seeing this flash out of the corner of my good eye. I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ and I keep seeing the flash, so I keep looking. Doing that constantly.”

“Then I realise there’s no flash going on, it’s just my eye. Every time I look left, it just flashes. And it still does it now when it’s dark. So I started freaking out thinking, ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe this. I’ve got a detached retina in my good eye. I have problems in my bad eye. It doesn’t look good.’ So obviously, I was freaking out.”

Michael Bisping

The diagnosis

Once he returned home, Bisping went to see a doctor. The medical profession gave him the bad news. He had actually suffered a vitreous detachment. This was a real wake-up call. Although he considered retiring upon hearing that diagnosis, he was also negotiating with the promotion to fight Rashad Evans in London.

It wasn’t until he watched the Paddy Considine movie ‘Journeyman,’ a movie he actually auditioned for, that he decided his time was up.

“In this movie, Journeyman, it’s about this boxer who has a great life, nice wife, kid and everything. He almost dies after a fight and he has severe brain damage, he loses the power of speech and all this type of stuff. It’s very sad – I was watching this movie last night and I thought, ‘It ain’t worth it.’

“I mean, what else am I going to do? I won the belt, I’ve had tons of wins, I’ve done everything that I set out to achieve. What’s the point in flogging a dead horse? Not that I’m a dead horse, I’ve done everything I set out to achieve and fortunately now I’ve used my platform to open other doors. You’ve got to know when to walk away. I’m almost 40 years old, so the time is now.”

Thank you for making this crazy game that little more interesting, Bisping. Your future in the Hall of Fame is already sealed.