Michael Bisping deserves title shot

Updated: July 21, 2015
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Call me a fan boy, I concede. But Michael Bisping still deserves a UFC title shot in his career.

After outworking Thales Leites with a barrage of technical striking this past weekend at Fight Night Scotland, Bisping has secured his first win streak since 2011. Yet, in winning back-to-back fights finally, he likely officially secured his place as a future Hall of Famer inside the octagon.

Full disclosure: Bisping is my favorite mixed martial artist and has been since he debuted to the main stream on ‘The Ultimate Fighter 3’ where he took his brash and brazen approach to a title for ‘Team Ortiz’ despite spending half of the show disgusted at the favoritism shown to teammate Matt Hamill.

He is now 17-7 inside the octagon.

The beat down on Bisping’s title hopes is clear: he loses when he has a title shot on the line. Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort all stopped Bisping’s title hopes in their tracks and at age 36, he is getting further away from being in peak physical shape every day. He has aged, he has all but lost an eye in the cage and Saturday afternoon in Scotland, he lost part of a toe.

I recently read an article about how multiple UFC stars have surpassed Bisping’s European star power and I find that to be false. Conor McGregor absolutely has. He has followed Bisping’s blueprint from 2006 and done it more successfully. But take an actual litmus test of the European MMA fan base, especially in England, and I defy you to find more than one fighter who is more popular than Bisping. He was the catalyst in any UFC expansion to Europe in the mid-2000s. Would they have gotten there eventually? Sure. But they didn’t go eventually, they went with Bisping.

Of the seven losses in his career, all in the UFC, Bisping has been beaten decisively just three times. Outside of the highlight-reel loss to Henderson at UFC 100, three of his first four losses all came with one similar trait: razor thin decisions. Even the wide array of Bisping (mostly American) haters have to agree that there is an argument that he beat Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva and Sonnen.

And of course there is that big TRT elephant in the room. All three title contention losses in Bisping’s career have come to users of testosterone replacement therapy, a currently banned substance that wasn’t banned when he fought those three. Not to mention whatever Silva could has been on when they fought in Australia in 2010.

But let’s take that all away. The excuses, valid or otherwise, are just that: excuses. Bisping is 27-7 with a record of 17-7 inside the octagon.

And in the time since Henderson knocked him out at UFC 100, how many less deserving fighters have challenged for UFC gold, in the middleweight division or elsewhere?

Junior dos Santos beat Frank Mir for the heavyweight title in 2012. And why was Mir getting a title shot? Because he had a name. Because he could help draw viewers. Why else? Sonnen at light heavyweight, Mark Hominick at featherweight, Joe Soto at bantamweight, Kyoji Horiguchi at flyweight. So why not Bisping at middleweight?

But the narrative, after his victory over Leites, doesn’t just come from me, the Bisping “fan boy.” MMA media across the web are calling for an eventual shot at the title, including the forefront of MMA media Ariel Helwani.

The numbers are there too. He is now third all-time in wins inside the octagon with his 17 only behind Matt Hughes (18) and Georges St. Pierre (19), and his wins in the middleweight division (13) sit only behind Anderson Silva (14). In the striking department, Bisping’s 115 significant strikes at UFC Fight Night Scotland made him the first middleweight ever to land more than 100 significant strikes in three separate bouts. Those 115 significant strikes also pushed him to No. 1 on the list of most significant strikes landed in his UFC career with 1,285, surpassing St. Pierre and Frankie Edgar.

One of the biggest strengths for Bisping has always been his cardio, which he took to task again with Leites, going the full 25 minutes without slowing down much and pushing his career octagon time past four hours, now also a record for the 185-pound division.

So are the so-called excuses and the vibrant numbers not enough?

Go back to what Bisping has done for the sport. His existence was vital to the global expansion of the UFC in the early Zuffa and Ultimate Fighter days. His style, his attitude and his mouth are the things that make for ideal sells for the UFC and always have. He was that guy when Sonnen was still in WEC and McGregor was a teenager. The fact that he was British didn’t just help expansion, it helped sell him a villain and a brash one, when setting up UFC 100 via ‘The Ultimate Fighter: Team U.S. vs. Team UK’ when his team dominated Henderson’s American squad. Say what you want about Mir against Brock Lesnar, but Bisping’s antics and mouth sold UFC 100 (still the top selling UFC pay per view ever) as much as anyone else.

And at some point, all Bisping has done for the UFC and accomplished in it, deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded. Yes, Luke Rockhold gets the next middleweight title shot against Chris Weidman and deservedly so. But behind Rockhold in line is a who’s who of guys who haven’t meant nearly as much to the sport as Bisping. The UFC has never been known to stick strictly to rankings, even their own, when determining a title challenger, so why start now?

Bisping still needs one more win and he plans to fight again in the final quarter of 2015. So if he does so successfully, no matter whom the opposition or their ranking, give the man a title shot. What does it hurt in the long run?

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