Perhaps he had waited long enough, too long to get his moment. In a mere 3:36 of the first round, it ended. Twenty days shy of a full decade in the UFC, Michael Bisping was the middleweight champion. As if all the frustration of all the ‘almosts’ in his career had coursed trough his veins, the colorful and sometimes controversial Brit literally took matters into his own hands with a knockout of Luke Rockhold.
What Bisping did last weekend was more than winning a fight, even more than becoming a champion, he reinforced all those qualities that often cliché’ until they actually unfold. It was 25 fights in the UFC after he won The Ultimate Fighter 3, the first foreigner to do so. It was a roller coaster of emotions and near misses that followed.
He never avoided the top shelf guys. His losses to the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Rashad Evans, and Vitor Belfort prove that out. He dropped what would’ve been career changing bouts to Tim Kennedy and Rockhold earlier. He lost heartbreaking title eliminators to Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. He could’ve walked away several times and pursued a full time acting career. Oh yes, there was the detached retina requiring surgery, affecting his eyesight and sending him to the sideline for almost a year. The risk of returning was questioned given the type of injury, but he did.
Every time “The Count” was to be counted out, he came back. He was always ready to show the mettle that makes a champion. To say he had bad luck was an understatement, however as if fate intervened he finally caught a break. Unfortunate for former champ Christ Weidman who bowed out of a rematch with Rockhold because of injury but, fortuitous finally for Bisping.
It was never said, but it didn’t have to be. At 37 years old this was the one and only title shot he was getting. If he lost, well at least he was given the opportunity that he had been craving. He had talked about it over and over in flamboyant and often questionable lengths in the past. True to form he didn’t bridle his tongue leading up to the bout for the belt, belting out in no uncertain terms his view of Rockhold. It wasn’t flattering, but no opponent was ever spared. Still there was a disarming charm about Bisping that made it hard for many to root against him even if there was a sizable number cheering against him. Somehow in some way even the opposition appreciated his gamesmanship in selling a fight and going all out every time the bell was rung.
Appropriately on the card that co-featured Dominick Cruz continuing his amazing comeback with his first successful title defense over Urijah Faber in this: his second go-round as UFC champ, there was Bisping, another shining example of hard work and never giving up. Taking a short notice chance, the chance of his lifetime. He didn’t just reach for the moment, he seized it for all it was worth, attacking early and frequently looking more like a champion defending than a contender trying to gain it.
Just looking at the record book and seeing Michael Bisping UFC middleweight champ will never accurately tell the whole story, the true soul of the matter. The words are strong sure, but the layers and layers of failures and tries are just as impressive. It would be a disservice to say if he had lost there was still some moral triumph to at last make it that far, just as it would be to say he deserved it as if Rockhold didn’t.
What’s fair, is that as unfairly as it all seemed on so many occasions for Bisping, he shrugged it off with a witticism or a sarcastic remark and then didn’t rely on words instead actions to make his case he was never not viable. Even in losses no one could say he just showed up, he was always ready to perform.
On Saturday night Bisping redefined perseverance, what everyone can admire and respect with a never quit attitude display that didn’t take all that long after all. He is the champ.
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