Interview: UFC star Michael Bisping on British MMA fighting and his one man show

Former UFC middleweight world champion from Lancashire Michael Bisping is returning to the UK for a one man show.

The hall of famer took the time to sit down with Mancunian Matters and discuss his near death experience, the state of British MMA and his much-anticipated show, An Evening with Michael Bisping: Tales from the Octagon.

As we began our Zoom interview, Bisping’s gruff voice bellowed through the speaker, fresh from a four-mile run, his beaming grin popped on the screen. 

“I’ll land on Monday, can’t wait, mate. Very very excited. The plan wasn’t to live out here my entire life, so anytime I come back, I just love it because I miss it so much.”

The 42-year-old’s journey has come full circle.

Raised in Clitheroe and working in what he called dead-end jobs, he dedicated himself to fighting professionally in his early 20s.

In 2006’s light heavyweight Ultimate Fighter champion, Bisping triumphed over the likes of Jorge Rivera and Anderson Silva before finally getting his UFC title fight in 2016.

With only 17 days notice for what many consider one of the greatest UFC upsets in history, he became Britain’s first and only UFC world champion.

His 2019 induction in the hall of fame, marked by the trophy perched behind him during our conversation, was the culmination of a remarkable career.

Now living in California, US, he’ll be back on Friday, this time on stage with a load of fascinating anecdotes.

“So the show is about my life, my fight career, the highs and the lows—kind of when I hit rock bottom because, you know, I was an idiot.

“I left school, didn’t go to college or anything like that, and I thought I had it all figured out.

“I’ve got quite the story to tell; it’s all about getting involved in MMA, winning the belt, losing an eye, sleeping in my car, to moving to America.

“I’m a-self deprecating kind of guy, so it’s not me standing up there making out – ‘look at me aren’t I amazing?’

“If anything, it’s me taking the p*ss out of myself.”

There are tales aplenty, like the one with the casting director or the one where he nearly got killed in South Africa and ended up calling his wife Rebecca.

“I had my phone in my hand, looking at the maps and stuff, and I thought I was going to die, so I just click Rebecca because I wanted to say, ‘babe, I think this is it, I love you and tell the kids’. And as it was ringing, I thought ‘what a f*cked up f*cking phone call’, so I hung up.

“But while I was like negotiating myself out of a near death experience, she’s calling back because it’s the middle of the night for her.

“She’s thinking there must be a problem, and I felt like saying, ‘babe, just hang on a minute. I’m a little bit busy.'”

UFC fighter to one man stage performer might not seem like the most natural transition. Still, since retirement in 2017, Bisping has become a podcaster, BT Sports commentator, ESPN analyst and even actor on film and TV.

Through his work with BT Sports he’s been able to stay close to the game he loves. Bisping is still Britain’s only UFC champion, a fact that brings him immense pride but one he thinks could change very soon.

“To be honest, we’re [Britain] in a really good spot because we’ve got a good few contenders now.

“I firmly believe Darren [Till] will be the champion one day, still only 28 years old, and he’s going to learn. You know I was in the UFC for a long time; it took me until I was 38, so he’s still got plenty of time on his side.

“Leon Edwards, he’s definitely a candidate for sure. I think he might be fighting [Jorge] Masvidal. If he beats Masvidal, which I think he will to be honest, then I don’t see a world where he doesn’t get to compete for the belt.

“We’ve got Arnold Allen which flies under the radar.

“We’ve got Tom Aspinall at heavyweight. I’m telling you Tom Aspinall is one to watch. Do you know what? I think actually if I had to put my money on them, I think Tom Aspinall is going to be the heavyweight champ one day.”

Bisping’s career has taken him all over the world. Since leaving for the US, he’s only been back to Manchester a few times in the intervening years. He’s missed it, a fact he was keen to stress.

“It’s the people, the people 100% there’s no one like them on earth simple as that and certainly not out here in America.

“They’re just so direct but not in a rude way. You know where you stand at all times, and the sense of humour is fantastic, and we’re so warm. It’s so different to the people out here.”

When it comes to the show, I asked him for final teaser of what’s in store.

He said: “Well, I have got some surprises lined up.

“We’ve got a world exclusive to start the show. A special guest making an appearance, and then I’ll be making an announcement at the end of the show as well.

“But more than anything, please come enjoy yourself and be gentle because I’m not a stand-up comedian, and I’ve never stood and done this in front of 3,000 people in my life!”

You can catch Michael Bisping at the O2 Manchester Apollo on Friday night, beer in hand, with plenty more stories to tell.

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