After paying in blood his entire career, Michael Bisping is a UFC Hall of Famer
If you weren’t watching closely during Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 5 stream, you might have missed it. And even if you saw it – the highlight reel and tribute video package, followed by an ovation for the man himself in The O2 – you could be forgiven for pushing it to the back of your mind with all the news that followed.
You look at Bisping’s career, and you see a guy who paid in blood for just about everything he got. Look at his face, and you see the proof.
He’s not Georges St-Pierre, still clean and pretty after years on top. He’s the guy who scratched and clawed and fought for every inch in his climb up the ranks. He’s the guy who never stopped believing that he’d be a UFC champion some day, even when he sometimes seemed to be the only one who still thought he had a shot at it.
So why did the announcement of his inclusion in the UFC Hall of Fame fly so easily under the radar? Part of it might be just the nature of the news cycle. When Jorge Masvidal fights twice in one night – once in the cage and once backstage – it can push honors for retired fighters below the fold.
And when the UFC announces an entirely new pay-per-view setupthe following Monday, yeah, that’s bound to pull people’s attention elsewhere.
Then there’s also the nature of this particular hall of fame to consider. As most of us know and accept at this point, it doesn’t work the way these things do in other sports. There’s no voting system, no panel of experts. This is a company hall of fame, kind of like employee of the month on a grander scale. It’s only the UFC deciding who gets in and who doesn’t, and often on whatever timeline suits its needs. From what we’ve seen, having a good ongoing relationship with UFC President Dana White can count for a lot in terms of consideration.
All that might diminish the honor somewhat, but it’s hard to look at Bisping’s career and conclude that he doesn’t deserve a spot among the greats – even if his path to get there wasn’t a smooth one.
For a lot of the UFC’s best, their rise seems, in retrospect, almost preordained. Guys like GSP and Anderson Silva, how could they not become legends? They were just so clearly better than everyone else. The fact that they also worked their tails off while we weren’t looking only helped them along.
But after his initial ascent through an early iteration of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Bisping’s career was often a study in the benefits of resiliency. He climbed up only to get knocked back down. He’d build a case for a title shot, only to see it evaporate with one stumble. Still he kept coming back, a living example of what can happen when you refuse to give up.
It also must be noted that perhaps no one suffered more acutely the downside of the UFC’s “TRT era” than Bisping. Three times in his career, Bisping was defeated by fighters who were using synthetic testosterone under the regulatory loophole that allowed for “testosterone-replacement therapy” by those who claimed a natural deficiency. All three of those fighters – Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort – got shots at the UFC middleweight belt, while Bisping’s path to a title shot was blocked by key losses at the wrong times.
So maybe it was fitting that Bisping’s title run came later in his career, in a different era of MMA, about a year after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency had signed on to strengthen drug testing in the UFC.
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