Out For The Count

In keeping with the Halloween theme, you have every reason to be scared of a guy with the nickname of ‘The Count’……especially when he’s one of the best mma fighters in the world. Whilst Conor McGregor may well be the name on everyone’s lips the UK does boast a UFC Champion too, and his backstory is fascinating.

November 4th at the legendary Madison Square Garden see UFC 217 take place. A huge night which features 3 World Title fights, and a main event for the ages, as Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping takes on George ‘Rush’ St-Pierre.
Both Bisping and GSP are future Hall OF Famers, of that there is no doubt. Nobody has had more fights or victories in the 24 year history of the company than The Count, and no one has spent more time in the cage as a Champion than GSP.

However, whereas people such as Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey and especially Conor McGregor have transcended the sport, the name Michael Bisping isn’t one that rolls off the tongue.  It really should though, especially over here in the UK, as he is the first and currently the only British fighter to hold a title in the premier organisination in the sport.

Winner of his first 10 fights in the UK in smaller promotions his big break came when he was invited to take part in the third season of the now legendary The Ultimate Fighter series.
A victory in this brought him to the main roster where he won his first four fights in the Light Heavyweight division before his first defeat in a narrow split decision loss to future World Champion Rashad Evans.
This prompted a switch down in weight class to the Middleweight division. Over the next 11 fights he racked up a good collection of wins, but unfortunately for him lost both title eliminator fights he was given, which would have given him a shot at a title. His first loss was a devastating KO at the hands of Dan Henderson, and the second was three years later against Chael Sonnen.
After the Sonnen defeat the best of his career seemed to be behind him as he went 3-3 in his next 6 fights, with the third of these defeats coming against American Luke Rockhold in November 2014.
After this defeat he did pick up a couple of wins before in February last year he was given a huge opportunity against arguably the greatest fighter of all time in the form of Brazilian Ander ‘The Spider’ Silver who had held the Middleweight Title longer than any fighter has ever held a belt (a 6 and a half year run). The fight happened at the O2 in London, and in what many called an upset Bisping won a Unanimous Decision. Suddenly the Brit was relevant again…if still far from title contention.

4 months later the landscape changed again, and boy was it for the better for Bisping. Just 17 days before the Middleweight Word Title fight between the guy who ended Anderson Silva’s title run Chris Weidman, and the man who then subsequently defeated him Luke Rockhold, the rematch was scrapped as Weidman became injured.  Still keen to have the Middleweight Title on the line the UFC drafted Bisping in on just 10 days’ notice to face Rockhold – the last man to defeat Bisping.  The odds hugely favoured Rockhold who dispatched of the Brit in less than 6 minutes in their first contest, but in another big upset Bisping Knocked Out the overly-confident American in just 3:36 of the very first round to be crowned the new Champion.
He then avenged another loss in his first title defense as he out-decisioned Dan Henderson at the Manchester Arena.

That brings us on to November 4th (actually November 5th UK time) and UFC 217 where Bisping will meet one of the greatest fighters of all time in George St-Pierre.
GSP is two-time Welterweight (one weight class below Middleweight) Champion, with his second reign as champion beginning in 2007, which included defending it a whopping 11 times.
His final defense against Jonny Hendricks was a fight that almost everyone watching thought he’d lost, only for 2 of the 3 ringside judges to side in his favour, as he won a split decision.  Following this he vacated his title and walked away from the sport in December 2013.

Now at the age of 36 he is stepping back in the octagon to challenge for the belt at a higher weight class.  For all he is 36 he is still the younger guy in the fight with Bisping being 38.
Should the Canadian GSP win the title he would be only the 4th fighter in history to win a belt at two different weight classes, following Randy Couture, B.J. Penn, and most recently (and famously) Conor McGregor.

It is shaping up for a great night of fights with two other titles on the line as well.
Firstly, undefeated women’s Strawweight champion Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk takes on Rose ‘Thug’ Namajunas – one of the few people she hasn’t defeated in a weight division she has really made her own.
And then the youngest Champion on the roster Cody Garbrandt puts his newly won Bantamweight Title on the line against former team mate and former Champion T.J. Dillashaw in what is sure to be a heated affair.
The event also features 9 other contests.

UFC 217 will be shown on BT Sport with the main card starting at 3am on Sunday 5th, and for more details please head over to ufc.com