It’s difficult to like Michael Bisping if you’re looking at him through the lens of his stint on The Ultimate Fighter (as either a coach or participant). Being seen in a certain light due to the skillful editing of a TV show can do that. Even though it’s been eight years since Bisping was on the show as a contestant and five years since he was a coach on the show and later suffered a brutal KO at the hands of Dan Henderson, time has done little to sway the perception some UFC fans have of Bisping.
Despite the excellent work he’s done as an MMA analyst for Fox, despite the fact that he is still fighting for the same organization for almost a decade, despite that he always seems to be ranked in the top 10 in his division, for some, Bisping will always wear the black hat. In fact, Bisping rather relishes the attention his opponents lavish on him and the brush with which they attempt to paint him. “Really in some ways I should thank him [Kennedy]. And of course, it’s motivated me as well,” Bisping said of Tim Kennedy in an open workout on Sunday before the two square off for The Ultimate Fighter: Nations finale.
For the most part, every time Bisping is booked, his opponents do the same thing: they poke the bear. Through challenges and bets, through videos, through interviews, his opponents blast the insults like buckshot hoping to be just as much of an irritant to Bisping as he is to them. They pick and prod and nudge him into a war of words before the fight takes place because they believe, in addition to helping sell the fight, the barbs will get under Bisping’s skin enough to affect his performance. In that respect, they have already lost because Michael Bisping so needs to have the last word, he never relents. To his credit, he usual gets the last word.
Consider the following tweet:
On the surface, this is true (even if Bisping himself has been out for a year dealing with an eye injury). None of the opponents Michael Bisping has beaten are a part of the UFC’s active roster. Let that sink in. Question the quality of wins over guys like Chris Leben, Brain Stann, Jorge Rivera, Alan Belcher, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and any of Bisping’s other wins as much as you’d like. None of them are on the UFC’s active roster. Bisping still is. Very few fighters have that kind of shelf life, especially with one organization. This should be Tim Kennedy’s motivation for beating Bisping—the people Bisping beats don’t tend to stay in the UFC.
Every time I pick against Michael Bisping, the Count makes me look silly, much like the opponents he faces. I fall into the same trap that his opponents fall into—I get distracted by the brashness and bravado and I forget that the only thing one can assume about a guy who has been around a long as Michael Bisping is that the man is a survivor. Few fighters have been able to best Bisping’s ability to build the pre-fight hype to a kettle-pot boil. Fewer still, only five to his ledger, have been able to actually best him where it matters. Count out The Count at your own peril.