Combat sport: Bisping carries British hopes

Michael Bisping carries the hopes of British mixed martial arts on his improbably-broad shoulders tomorrow, when he takes on legendary American Dan Henderson at UFC 100, the biggest event in the emerging combat sport's ten-year history.









The 29-year-old fighter from Clitheroe goes into the stiffest test of his career knowing that victory would be likely to tee-up a title bout in November on his home turf of the MEN Arena, against the UFC's reigning middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

First, though, Bisping faces Henderson, a veteran two-time Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler with dangerous floor skills and a big right hand. Despite having just one loss in his 19-fight career, the Briton is considered firm underdog by Sin City's bookmakers.

"To be honest, that just motivates me," he said yesterday. "I don't mind underdog status. It suits me fine. The more people say I'm going to get destroyed, the more it makes me want to prove them wrong and smash this guy up. It'll make victory all the sweeter."

Bisping's hopes may lie in his superior speed and defense, and the prospect of Henderson, 38, tiring in later rounds. Though he has worked heavily on the floor in training, Bisping must also avoid getting dragged into a wrestling match against a master of that art.

The son of a soldier, who was a martial arts champion as a teenager, Bisping's rise represents an old-fashioned Cinderella story. Just six years ago, he was working as a casual labourer and carpet fitter, before discovering his talent for mixed martial arts on the provincial circuit.

Today, his picture is emblazoned along the Las Vegas strip, and a diamond-encrusted Rolex sits on his hotel room table at the Mandalay Bay. His fortunes have risen with the sport, which has outgrown its blood-and-sawdust roots to become a billion-dollar phenomenon.

"I'm making a fantastic living. There's huge screens everywhere with my face on. There's posters with my face on. I'm an action figure. I'm in a computer game. I do sometimes think ‘how did this happen?'" he said. "But it hasn't just fallen in my lap. I've worked very hard for it."

Despite being a former amateur boxer, Bisping is perhaps unfairly often billed as a better defensive fighter than attack-dog. But his counter-punching and floor-work has helped win 16 fights by submission or knockout.

He is currently on a three-game winning streak, after dropping a weight class after being controversially outpointed in a split decision by Rashad Evans in 2007. Henderson's 24 wins and 76 losses have come against top quality opponents, though he's recently struggled to win via knockout.

The fight caps nine months of ill-feeling between the two men, who coached opposing teams in a recent series of The Ultimate Fighter, a reality TV show that has turned the Lancastrian into a household name in the US.

During one episode, Bisping sparked heated controversy when he squirted water in the face of one of Henderson's fighters. During other episodes, and again during this week's build-up, he cracked jokes about his rival's age.

"I was trying to have a bit of fun with Dan, but I'm not sure if he understood the northern humour," said Bisping, an acquaintance of Ricky Hatton whose sense of humour is often compared to the wise-cracking boxer.

"Since then, Dan's gone on and been quite insulting. He's shown me no respect. He's said that all he has to do is get on a treadmill and work his cardio and he could beat me any day of the week. I think he's sorely mistaken - and if he's underestimating me that's going to be his downfall."

In addition to representing a coming of age for Bisping, Saturday's event will also underline the remarkable success of UFC in capturing the public imagination. Tickets sold out before they went on sale, and ringside passes are now changing hands for $45,000. The average resale price for all seats is $750.

A pay per view audience of 1 million, each spending $45, will watch in the US, and the show will be screened live in 51 other countries. In the UK, it will be carried on Sky Sports, following the collapse of Setanta. UFC, the firm that runs the show, was this year valued at $1 billion by Forbes.

After an eight-fight undercard, and Bisping's featured bout, the anniversary event will culminate in two title fights: a welterweight encounter between Canada's Georges St-Pierre and the hard-strinking Brazillian Thiago Alves, and a heavyweight match-up involving the uncompromising former WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar, and Frank Mir.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own