Ultimate Fighting: Three minutes into the fight, my face spewed blood like a broken hosepipe

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The Independent Online

Ten seconds after we met, Michael Bisping planted his fist firmly onto my mouth. He followed with a left to the ribs and a couple of shots on the chin, before going to work on my bleeding nose. Three minutes later, my face was spewing blood like a broken hosepipe.

That, at least, is what my notebook records of 10 April last year, when I was dispatched to the outskirts of Liverpool to meet, interview and "spar" with Mr Bisping, a then-undefeated star of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's biggest cage fighting franchise.

I can't actually remember many details of the single round we spent inside the "cage," an octagonal pen lined with plastic mesh netting. That's probably thanks to the minor concussion I suffered. But it was by all accounts an uneven match-up, and I'm fairly sure I failed to land a single shot.

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There was me: a fairly incompetent amateur boxer four weeks off a white-collar fight. Then there was my opponent: a former UK kick-boxing champion and professional mixed martial artist, fighting with home advantage at his Cheshire gym, which is rather worryingly called The Wolf's Lair.

What I do recall is being hopelessly impressed by Mr Bisping's athleticism, fitness and dedication. To first-timers, cage fighting can be a thuggish spectacle, but its "no holds barred" simplicity lends it to subtleties and variations that need an array of technical expertise.

You might have the right hook of Mike Tyson but if a fight ends up on the ground, you also need to be accomplished in wrestling and ju-jitsu. As well as strength you need agility and mental sharpness. And contestants are required to respect each other, unlike their mouthy counterparts from the world of boxing.

And as my cheery demeanour afterwards suggests, the sport can also be surprisingly good fun – even if you lose. Provided its a practice session, of course.