MMA fans might think they know the story of Michael Bisping, the British mixed martial artist who won The Ultimate Fighter 3, became one of the toughest guys in the UFC, and finally broke through at the age of 38 to win the UFC Middleweight Championship in 2016. Registering the most total fights and wins in the Middleweight division cemented his Hall of Fame career.
But there’s another side to Bisping’s journey. From his hard upbringing that included a prison sentence to being written off by fans and journalists after suffering brutal losses via knockout, the road to the top is not as picturesque as it seems. Add in the fact that Bisping fought for years without vision in his right eye and this story becomes downright unfathomable.
Now, one of the most popular personalities in UFC history is setting the record straight and telling his side of the story in Bisping: The Michael Bisping Story. Directed by Michael Hamilton (I Am MLK Jr.), Bisping is the first-hand account of the UFC star who defies the odds as he transforms from journeyman to champion. The documentary showcases not only the biggest matchups of his career but the toughest battles, both professional and personal, that almost ended his career.
Most mixed martial artists develop a fighting instinct at a young age, and Bisping is no different. From his family to his childhood friends, they describe a young Bisping as a “fun kid who loves to fight.” Bisping cites part his reason for fighting lies with his living situation in Clitheroe, England. Times were tough in the Bisping household, both financially and emotionally as his father, Jan, struggled to adjust to home life after serving in the British army. During one interview, Bisping chokes up when describing his childhood, explaining how he saw a lot of things a kid should not see but refuses to specify the actions due to the strong love he has toward his parents.
Known for his brash personality throughout his career, this humble, extremely loving version of Bisping will not only surprise fans but provide them with a greater sense of appreciation for the fighter known as “The Count.” The teenage years did not get any easier for the future hall of fame, as he spent one month in prison after a bar fight. With his wife Rebecca pregnant, his time in prison became a wake-up call, which eventually led him to train to become a professional fighter. Although it can be difficult for the average viewer to connect with a prizefighter who has experienced tremendous fame and fortune, Bisping’s ability to pick himself up from the lowest point and challenge himself to create a better life for his family is as relatable as it gets.
With his career over, Bisping is very transparent about how a detached retina in his right eye and a string of multiple surgeries led to his 20/200 vision, which is legally blind. At the time of the injury in the fight against Vitor Belfort in 2013, doctors told Bisping that he would never fight again. It cannot be understated that Bisping fought over 10 times after the eye injury. Though viewers may not agree with Bisping’s tactics, which he says involved a lot of lying to doctors and cheating the system, they can’t deny his determination to prove the naysayers wrong.
The film not only focuses on the physical toll of fighting but also on the mental aspect, which is arguably more emotionally taxing to a fighter. Hamilton is smart to bring in prominent fighters and commentators to discuss the detrimental effects losing can have on an athlete. Tito Ortiz, Michael Jai White, and Rashad Evans all share personal stories about how the mindset of a fighter can be a tough place. Joe Rogan describes how big knockouts can haunt fighters for years, which is why Bisping’s devastating loss to Dan Henderson at UFC 100 becomes a turning point in his career.
It will come as no surprise that Bisping hits its stride when the fighter himself steps back into the octagon to describe two of the biggest fights in his career against Anderson Silva and Luke Rockhold, with the latter being for the UFC Middleweight Championship. The camera quickly cuts back and forth between footage from the actual fight and the present-day Bisping as he mimics the moves with such passion and provides informative commentary along the way. These moments inside the cage are inciteful for viewers as they get to see the inner thoughts of a fighter. When Bisping defeats Rockhold and finally wins the belt, it’s a triumphant victory that mirrors a scene out of a Rocky movie.
Bisping is a treat especially for MMA fans as they get a peek into the life of one of the UFC’s most legendary fighters and personalities. Though the underdog story has been told before, Bisping’s unique rise to the championship with only one eye is something you need to see to believe.
Bisping: The Michael Bisping Story is available to rent and own on digital in the U.K. and Internationally starting March 21 and in the U.S. on March 22.