Michael Bisping‘s career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is one of endurance and longevity.
He has been in the UFC since June 2006, making him one of the longest-tenured fighters in the promotion’s history. He won the third season of The Ultimate Fighter; the 22nd season of the show kicks off in September. If that doesn’t succeed in making him feel old, it should at least give you an idea of just how long he has been around the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion.
And in all that time, he has never received a title shot. It’s almost incomprehensible.
For the entirety of his UFC duration, he has been a popular and marketable fighter. There was a time when Bisping was one of the UFC’s biggest bad guys, at least in North America. He knows how to turn up the arrogance for the camera, and he talks as good of a game as any. Sports writer Mike Bohn provided a key stat for Bisping:
He wins fights. The perceived story is that he always comes up short when presented with an opportunity to fight his way into a title shot. And that’s partially true, at least on the surface. But the real truth is that Bisping was something of a victim of the testosterone-replacement therapy era.
His biggest losses—to Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort—came during a time when all three opponents were on TRT, which is now banned by athletic commissions.
Sure, TRT was legal at the time. But you still can’t help but feel for Bisping. He is a fighter who did not use TRT, always tested clean and seemingly did things the right way.
But when he was given a chance to shine, he was presented with opponents who were not clean, even though the law dictated they were. He lost those fights and lost his opportunities to finally rise to the top.
Even with those losses, I can’t help but wonder how he’s been kept away from the title picture all these years. The UFC has no set policy on shepherding fighters into contendership status. It does what it wants, when it wants.
Just this morning, it was announced that Alexander Gustafsson will officially get a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title. He’s coming off a loss in his last fight, and yet he has been awarded a title fight. It’s actually the second fight in a row where the light heavyweight title will be contested by a fighter coming off a loss.
You’re telling me the same thing couldn’t have been done for Bisping? Why must Bisping win four or five bouts in a row before he’s considered for a title shot?
It makes no sense.
I’m not telling you that Bisping should be handed a title fight after his UFC Fight Night: Glasgow split-decision win over Thales Leites. His performance wasn’t impressive enough to warrant such a thing. He fought in his usual style, landing punches but rarely doing any sort of damage.
Still, as it has been throughout his career, it was enough to earn the decision.
“I felt I was in control of the fight for the most part. He hit me with a couple of good shots on two occasions but other than that I felt great, and I felt in control,” Bisping said after the fight. “I think I’m 17-0 in the UK now, and it means the world to me to still be taking out top 10 guys after 10 years with the organisation.”
Bisping clearly hasn’t given up on his hopes of fighting for a title. He’s 36 and likely is viewing his best days in his rearview mirror, but the one thing that seems to keep him around, the one thing that has eluded him since he joined the UFC, is the championship. And though beating Leites won’t vault him into that title mix that includes champ Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero or Jacare Souza, it keeps his name alive.
“Thales is a tough guy, and he was on an eight-fight win streak, you know. I went in there and beat him,” he said. “I’ve beaten many, many good opponents. And I am capable of fighting for that title.”
Capable? Perhaps. It is hard to imagine Bisping keeping up with the four aforementioned names. But seeing him fight for the title, after all these years of being denied the opportunity, would be something special. He’ll likely have to face a top contender before even being considered for a title shot, because that seems to be the UFC’s m.o. when it comes to “The Count.”
But if he can face and beat another contender? I’d be fully supportive of a Bisping title shot.
Regardless of how he would fare against the champion, it’s a moment that is long overdue.
Jeremy Botter covers mixed martial arts for Bleacher Report.
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