This weekend, after 10 tough years of service with the UFC, British veteran Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping will finally get his shot at becoming champion when he faces middleweight champ Luke Rockhold in the UFC 199 main event.
With the combined factors of his age (37), one loss to Rockhold already on his record (via submission at UFC Fight Night 55), and coming into this fight on short notice to replace an injured Chris Weidman, the Brit has the odds stacked against him and is therefore a clear underdog. But that doesn’t mean The Count should be counted out. In fact, he is arguably more dangerous now than ever before.
Nothing to lose
What makes Bisping so dangerous here – aside from his ultra-high confidence after beating former champ Anderson Silva in his last fight – is the fact he truly has nothing to lose. With virtually no expectations being placed on him by the fans, he has already earned the respect of his peers by taking a fight on short notice against the best man in his division. If he wins it will be one of the most remarkable underdog stories in MMA history; if he loses he will still be credited with stepping up and doing the best he could under the circumstances. As such, in an odd contradiction, conditions are strangely perfect for the Englishman despite the overwhelming odds.
What’s more, at his age it surely won’t be long before Bisping calls it a day in MMA and moves on to focus on his careers in acting and MMA punditry. In fact, whether he wins or loses on June 4th, UFC 199 could be the last time we see Bisping fight. If he is unable to claim the title here then it’s unlikely he will ever get another crack, and if he pulls off the unthinkable and beats Rockhold then what better way to end his career than on the highest of highs.
Destiny vs. Reality
In the days running up to UFC 199, Bisping has been claiming he believes it to be his “destiny” to win the UFC title on June 4th. That’s all well and good but if, for whatever reason, luck or fate isn’t on his side on June 4th then just how realistic are the Englishman’s chances of winning the belt?
Prior to his win over Anderson Silva, Bisping’s head coach, Jason Parillo, told FO: “Rockhold’s a different being. I’ve held the pads for Luke Rockhold, he’s a strong dude and he’s athletic as all get-out. He’s a guy that, I don’t think, has hit his peak potential yet. I think he’s a guy that is a dangerous fighter, it’s just about how he handles himself outside the gym.
“I don’t know his personality well enough, but if he decides to stay as focused as he has leading up to this point he’s going to be tough to beat for a while. Unless he’s fighting Michael Bisping (laughs).”
Of course, Parillo’s opinion is going to be biased, but the veteran MMA trainer is still better prepared for preparing The Count to face Rockhold than most and he’s sure to give his fighter the most effective tools possible to test Luke. After all, he’s already proven himself to a be a coach worthy of the biggest challenges by coaching Bisping to victory against Silva.
With Parillo’s assistance, Bisping truly does look to be better than ever. He has performed consistently against legitimate competition, and in his win over Silva he showed the kind of mental fortitude (Bisping was almost knocked out by a flying knee from Silva at the end of the third round) that is needed to achieve success at the championship level of the fight game. This seemingly new mental edge the Brit has is by no means a magic power, but in a game of inches like MMA it could prove to be what shapes Michael Bisping’s destiny.
Rockhold remains the betting favorite and rightfully so, but fans who are expecting the same washout victory for the defending champ that he achieved in the first fight should reconsider the circumstances. Bisping is entering this fight with nothing to lose, his confidence higher than ever and is already accustomed to Rockhold’s size and strength. The odds are against him, but don’t count The Count out.