Michael Bisping‘s journey to the UFC middleweight championship was a long road traveled.
He began his professional fighting career in April 2004 and reeled off ten consecutive wins, all by stoppage. He then appeared on the third edition of The Ultimate Fighter in 2006 and emerged as the season’s light heavyweight winner. After five fights in the 205-pound weight class, “The Count” dropped down to the middleweight division in 2008. It would take him eight years to earn a title shot.
When then-champion Luke Rockhold‘s original UFC 199 opponent, former titleholder Chris Weidman, withdrew from their schedule rematch due to a neck injury, a title shot fell in Bisping’s lap. He replaced Weidman and knocked out Rockhold in the first round of their rematch in June.
Now that he’s in possession of the 185-pound belt, Bisping feels “massive pressure” to defend it. The pressure is amplified by his first title defense taking place in his hometown of Manchester, England against a fighter that holds a knockout win over him.
“I wanted to be champion for a long time. I’ve achieved that. You want to be a defending champion, and now I’m doing it in my hometown. Of course there’s massive pressure. You don’t just want to be one and done. I don’t want to be a guy that wins the belt and then loses it. Nobody wants that.”
Bisping faces Dan Henderson on October 8 at Manchester Arena. Henderson knocked out Bisping in a title elimination bout at UFC 100 in 2009. “Hendo” is the last fighter Bisping wants to lose to.
“I don’t want him to be the guy that beat me at UFC 100 that took the belt off of me. That brings pressure,” he said. “Fortunately, I thrive under the pressure.”