by James Hoy for MMAWeekly.com
Michael Bisping, star of The Ultimate Fighter 3, has had a turbulent time over in the states. After impressing on the reality TV show, he was expected to fight in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 4. But a slight visa problem and an injury delayed his full debut for almost 6 months, when he would fight Eric Schafer at UFC 66.

He said, “It was such a relief; I was dying to fight for a long time. It actually ended up working out quite well because I made my debut on a great event.”

“The Count” managed to defeat Schafer by way of TKO at 4:24 in the first round, the referee jumping in to save him from some vicious ground and pound.
Bisping completely dominated the stand-up, landing several clean punches and kicks, “Schafer didn’t want to know anything about standing and trading with me.”

His opponent had a very clear game plan from the start – taking the fight to the ground, which he did manage on several occasions. Bisping said, “My take-down defence has improved massively in training, and he never really managed to get me down cleanly with a shot or throw. I was disappointed he was able to catch some of my kicks and bundle me over with the momentum. I won’t be changing my style though; I love to press the action.”

Schafer was fighting for a submission for the majority of fight, but Bisping was able to fend it all off with his technique and awareness. He said, “I’d done my homework on him and knew that he had come third in the Abu Dhabi qualifier, so he’s a great grappler. I had done a lot of submission defence in training.”

At one point it seemed as though Schafer might have secured an arm triangle. But Bisping wasn’t worried, “He definitely had the position. I thought to myself, this isn’t exactly part of the plan! But I just worked my escape and was never in any danger.”
He described the fight as a learning experience, “Obviously it wasn’t great at the time to get mounted and have my back taken in the fight. But in the long run I think it will benefit my training.”

The fight wasn’t the only thing Bisping had to deal with that night. Clearly, there were huge expectations from the crowd of the TUF winner. And of course it was also his first night as part of the huge spectacle that is the UFC. “I was right in front of the cage for the Tito/Chuck fight,” said Bisping. “It was incredible to watch with the lights and atmosphere and it turned out to be a great fight; I thought Tito did great. I still consider myself a fan of the sport even as a fighter.”

Mike also had to deal with not having the crowd of friends and family he normally has around him when fighting. “With it being over the holiday period, it was difficult to get everyone over,” he said.

Even worse, Bisping’s training partner let him down at the eleventh hour. “The UFC had paid for another fighter to come out with me and train before the fight. For some reason, when we got there, the guy decided to jump straight back on a plane to Manchester. We still don’t know why.”

Luckily for Bisping help wasn’t far away and he couldn’t have done much better than Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and MMA veteran Kazeka Muniz. “Muniz’s gym has close ties to the gym where I train, the Wolfslair. He was a lifesaver. He dropped everything, stayed with me and help me prepare for the fight.”

Bisping got to train with many great fighters while in the states, notably Forrest Griffin and Mark Laimon. He said, “I was blown away by how great the different teams were with me. I’m guessing it would be a different story if we ever fought each other.” He won’t be leaving his home gym, the Wolfslair, any time soon though. “Of course there are people all over the world who I would love to train with. But the Wolfslair is great and I’m sticking with them.”

So what does the future hold for Bisping? Mike is tied into a UFC contract for the near term and it seems to suit him just fine. “Of course I would consider fighting in other organizations like Pride in the future because I like to challenge myself,” he commented. “But the UFC have treated me so well and I really think this year will prove they are the best MMA organization. They have brought in some great fighters and it sounds like there will be more coming.”

Bisping will next fight at UFC 70, which will be held in the UK in the Manchester Evening News Arena later this year. His opponent is yet to be announced.