Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping was born on February 28th, 1979 on a military base in Cyprus, England. Aided by his early interest in martial arts, Bisping trained in the traditional Yawara Ryu form on jiu jitsu from the age of 8. He competed in amateur fights as young as 15 when he took part in the No Holds Barred competition promoted by Knock Down Sport Budo organization.
Despite his early success as a fighter, Bisping decided to take time off from his training in order to pursue full-time work. He returned less than a year later to continue his training in kickboxing and karate with Alan Clarking of Black Knight’s Gym. Bisping was successful in his short kickboxing career, winning both the North West Area title and the Pro British Light Heavyweight Kickboxing title. With fighting still not paying the bills, ‘The Count’ again quit his training in order to work full time as a postal worker, a salesman, and a construction worker.
During his downtime Bisping continued to visit local gyms and training centers, eventually running into former coach Paul Lloyd Davies at his own gym in Nottingham. Davies convinced Bisping to return to training with him and the young fighter was introduced to the quickly evolving world of mixed martial arts fighting. After six months of intense training, Bisping was ready to fight professionally.
The Pride & Glory 2: Battle of the Ages event on April 4th, 2004 saw Michael Bisping’s professional MMA fighting debut and he quickly won the bout only 38 seconds into the first round with an arm bar over Steve Mathews. Bisping’s first knockout came only a month later when he faced John Weir at the UK MMA Challenge 7: Rage & Fury event. These victories pushed him into a title match against Mark Epstein and Bisping quickly became the Cage Rage Light Heavyweight champion. After a title defense that saw Bisping again facing Mark Epstein and leaving with a second victory, this one by TKO, fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championship began to spread his name, dubbing him ‘The Great British Hope.’
Bisping went on to battle in his first cage kickboxing match against David Brown at The Ultimate Fight Club UK: Natural Instinct event on January 29th, 2005. After Brown was badly cut in the second round the fight was stopped by a doctor and Bisping received yet another win. He quickly moved on to take part in the Ultimate Force series on April 30th, 2005, beating David Radford and becoming the Cage Warriors Light Heavyweight Champion.
Although Bisping successfully defended his title against Miika Mehmet at CWFC Strike Force 2, Cage Rage removed his title status due to ‘management issues.’ UFC CEO Dana White was quick to take advantage and immediately invited Bisping to take part in the The Ultimate Fighter, Spike TV’s hit reality training show. Bisping won matches against Kristian Rothaermel, Ross Pointon and Josh Haynes to win the Light Heavyweight title on the show and earn a multi-fight contract with the UFC.
It took five months to schedule Bisping’s next bout against Eric Schafer and he was forced to withdraw after having issues in traveling to the United States for the match. The match did take place at UFC 66 and Bisping took Schafer out in the first round with a TKO. ‘The Count’ reappeared at UFC 70 in his home country and he won with another TKO, this time over Elvis Sinosic.
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