MMA: Exclusive interview with UFC fighter Michael Bisping

The British fighter is on the verge of returning to the octagon after a series of injury problems

Michael Bisping sits across from me. He is the most famous European UFC fighter. Whilst he is unable to walk down the street in the USA without attracting attention, in this London cafe he goes relatively unnoticed. He has been out of action, having torn his retina for around a year, and is just hours removed from having been given the all clear to fight Tim Kennedy. He is relieved.

“I’ve always remained positive through this recovery, but it’s been knock back after knock back. First it was the detached retina, then glaucoma then cataracts. It seems like every problem you can have with an eye, I had. When I went in to the appointment, I wasn’t letting myself get too excited and in the back of my mind was almost expecting not to be cleared. Fortunately I passed the eye exam and vision test, even though the vision in my right eye is still slightly impaired.”

It was midnight in America when Bisping came out of the appointment and so he had to sit on the news a while longer.

“I called my mum and family, but I wanted to call my manager and Dana White. As the day went on, I started getting phone calls anyway so I didn’t have to wait that long. Before I knew it, Twitter had exploded and it was all over the web without me really telling too many people. I’m a happy man.”

Bisping, as a top five fighter in the middleweight division and an outspoken figure, has always elicited a rise from competitors. Whilst he was out of action and hence an easy target, multiple fighters called him out, none more so than his next opponent; ex US Army member, Tim Kennedy. 

“This guy has been calling me out for four years now, and to be honest I’ve never even laid eyes on him. I’m only accepting this fight because it’s obviously got a level of fan interest now and also I’ve been out of the Octagon for a year. It’s a tune up for me. He’s a top 10 opponent, but this is a step up for him and after this I’ll be on to bigger and better things.”

Bisping was due to fight in Manchester in October, and will just miss out on the March event at the O2 with his fight due to take place April 16th. 

“Fighting in England for me is the height of my career. It really is. I was so excited to fight in Manchester as it’s my home city and it was devastating to have to pull out. I knew after that, I wasn’t going to be back until April though so London was never going to be an option for me. Fighting at the O2 Arena would have been a dream, but it wasn’t to be. I’ll be there doing some broadcasting, but I’ll be focussed on my training at that point.”

When Bisping first started training MMA, it was very new and not widely known. I wanted to find out how he got into the sport at such an early stage. 

“I started learning jiujitsu when I was eight-years-old. I had a lot of success and won ever competition I even entered. It was never going to be a job as MMA and the UFC didn’t exist. My dad would drive me all over the country to train with certain people. I’d get home at 2am and have to go to school hours later. It took a lot of dedication, but I probably should have focused more on school work. I went to college and did advanced electronically engineering, not really knowing what I wanted to do. It bored me to death so I dropped out. Another mistake. I became miserable taking any job I could. It was at this point that I considered MMA with the rise of Pride and UFC. An old coach told me I had potential, and I started training. Everybody thought I was crazy. Now here I am.”

Bisping has been at the helm of European MMA for nigh on a decade.

“I’m very proud of it. I’m sat here with a PR lady and being interviewed and being entertained by executives from learned and experienced sporting backgrounds. When I train for a fight, I train in a morning and in an evening and in between I’m doing interviews and I love it. Seeing where the sport is now, not saying it’s down to me at all, but I’ve played a part.

"I get recognised here now, but I can’t go five steps in America without it. It’s up there with all of the main sports there. It’s a sign of the growth of the sport.”

Bisping was the first non American to win UFC’s Ultimate Fighter reality TV show. Not all past winners have gone on to be successful in the UFC. With Bisping being one of those that has gone on to succeed, I asked why.

“We have just had an English runner up in the last show called Davey Grant. He’s a lovely guy and he’s very dedicated. It’s hard to see him as a fighter because he is so nice but I was blown away when I first saw him in the gym. When I saw him in the Ultimate Fighter, I knew he’d do well. He’s got a very bright future. 

"There’s been a lot of seasons of the show now and not everyone who wins it can go on to be successful. It’s hard.”

For anyone who doubts the professionalism needed to be a successful UFC fighter, they need look no further than Bisping for proof to the contrary. 

“I have a boxing coach, a kickboxing coach, a wrestling coach, a jiujitsu coach, a strength and conditioning coach, a sports psychologist a nutritionist. For anybody to think that this sport is 2 idiots getting into a cage and swinging at each other wildly is ludicrous. This is big business. You have to be highly highly dedicated to compete at this level.”

Not long ago, Bisping was knocked out brutally with a spinning head kick by top middleweight title contender Vitor Belfort. Belfort has come under scrutiny by many because of his use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). The use of TRT is currently legal with the necessary exemption, however highly controversial. It has helped Belfort rediscover his prime at the ripe age of 36. Bisping has been very outspoken against the use of TRT. 

“It massively affected our fight. It doesn’t affect him on the night, but all the way through training. It still affects me to this day because all of my eye problems resulted from the head kick I took from Vitor Belfort. It was after that fight I began to get the symptoms of my detached retina. If he wasn’t on TRT could he have thrown that kick with quite so much velocity? Who knows. 

"At the end of the day we’re not trying to put a ball through a hoop, it’s a fight and we’re trying to finish our opponent. Fortunately it’s looking like it’s coming to an end and a ban will be implemented. These guys using TRT are currently acting within the rules. I don’t agree with it but it isn’t illegal.”

In the fight for mainstream sport acceptance in the UK, Bisping has been invited to attend BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in the past. Though he was told he came 11th at one point, he’s never been on the main voting shortlist. 

“The BBC doesn’t cover the sport, so it’s not going to happen yet. Darts players get recognition and we don’t. Hopefully one day we see one of my peers in there."

Bisping is a family man and has three children with his fiancé. He gets married in May. 

“99 per cent of the women out there, if their partner came home and said they were quitting work and moving city because they wanted to be a professional fighter…. They would have stopped them or left. My fiancé always supported me and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here now.”

When asked about the camaraderie between UFC fighters, Bisping recounts a story from the weigh-in before his fight with Chael Sonnen.

“I was expecting the worst, because he is a known trash talker. He was the ultimate gentleman. We’d be on conference calls with each of us in our hotel rooms and in between speaking with the reporters he’d just be chatting away with me. We were squaring off after the weigh in trying to look mean and he just asking me what cologne I was wearing because of how awesome I smelt. I nearly burst out laughing. We had a great fight and now we’re great friends. This is martial arts… It all goes back to discipline, respect and character.”

UK fight fans can be thankful to have Michel Bisping spearheading the sport of MMA. He is entertaining in fight build up but backs it up with his performances in the ring. After meeting him for the first time I was struck by how genuine he was as a person, how intelligent, how happy he was to answer any question I threw his way. Bisping is back. I recommend you tune in!

Voices
A Siberian Tiger
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

M&E Construction Planner Solihull

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Car, Healthcare, Pensions: Progressive Recruitment...

Senior Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...

Chemistry Teacher

£90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried