Michael Bisping now looks set to conclude his illustrious career this year after fourteen years in the cage. Though nothing official has been announced, it’s being taken as a given from the UFC rumor mill that March 17 will be the day that “The Count” enters the Octagon one last time.
A potential Hall-of-Famer, Bisping is undoubtedly one of the biggest fan-favorites at this time. His long and arduous climb, spanning a UFC career of 11 years, has had the die-hard fans cheer him on from winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 3 all the way to Dana White strapping the UFC middleweight belt around his waist.
Though his rise to the top was a rough climb, it all came crashing down as Bisping lost the belt to George St-Pierre at UFC 217. Three weeks later, it was followed by a knock-out loss to Kelvin Gastelum at the Shanghai event. Just like that, Bisping was way down the rankings. However, his popularity didn’t diminish. On the contrary, everyone adored Bisping even more for stepping in to take on the dangerous young fighter Gastelum so soon. So, though fans cheer for Bisping more than ever, it seems about time to finish things up and go out with a bang.
Bisping has an opportunity to say goodbye to the fight game in front of a British crowd in two month’s time. Although the top five middleweights seem to be all booked up for the foreseeable future, there are a few names that would make sense for Bisping’s last fight, and to give him the send-off that he deserves.
Hall is 1-3 in his last 4 fights, but is looking to make a come-back. Coming off a superb TKO win over Krzysztof Jotko, “Primetime” fainted on the way to the UFC St. Louis weigh-ins, so has yet to have his next bout. As Bisping is still higher than Hall in the rankings, a match-up between these two would make sense. Bisping’s cardio is enough to outlast Hall and, with Bisping having enough recovery time since his ‘double-fight’ back in November, his chin could easily hold against Hall’s trademark knock-out kicks. Also, Hall still holds enough drawing power to make this fight marketable and if he can stay healthy enough to get back in camp before March 17, this could make for a very attractive headlining bout.
This is a bit unlikely, time-wise. Weidman is still currently recovering from a severe thumb injury, which means his come-back won’t be happening as soon as St. Patrick’s day. At the UFC 220 media scrum, Weidman revealed he had to remove a tendon from his wrist to cater for his thumb so, although he’s back hitting the bag, March 17 may be a wishful thinking. However, that doesn’t rule out a potential bout further down the road if Bisping was willing to wait. Weidman is one of the high-level guys that Bisping hasn’t ever faced, and it’s no secret that these guys don’t like each other after a heated Twitter feud last year. To see Bisping finish off his career with a win over Weidman would be the ideal send-off for his legacy. Fans would love to see these two large middleweights hash it out, however, it would mean Bisping sacrificing his last bout on English soil.
This would be a dangerous match-up for Bisping. While Branch is coming off a loss to Luke Rockhold, his 11 fight win streak prior to that, coupled with the fact that he is also a former title-holder himself, gives this fight a reason to be. Branch is only two years younger than Bisping but is nowhere past his prime, giving Bisping a hard road to finish his career on with a win. Also, Branch was robbed of an opponent in Yoel Romero, with the “Soldier of God” now getting another crack at an interim title against Rockhold. This might be a fresh opportunity for Branch to prove himself once more and make for a vicious scrap between the two former champions.
This seems like a painfully obvious choice to headline UFC London in March. Not only is “The Phenom” currently looking for an opponent after Uriah Hall fell ill before their showdown in St. Louis, but Belfort’s next fight will also be his last. Belfort has been around since the very beginning and to have himself and Bisping battle it out to see who wins their last bout would be a huge fight for the fans. Unfortunately for those eager to see this happen, Belfort has taken to Instagram slating Bisping. According to Belfort, Bisping has already refused this fight. However, as we all know, Bisping isn’t one for turning down a fight, so this could be all in the name of selling this obvious match-up.
What a shame @mikebisping !!! @ufc just informed me that you have declined the fight. I understand you are scared. The images above pretty much explain it all… So stop pretending that you are tough and just admit that you are afraid. And I thought you were man enough to step up in the octagon with me again, my mistake… unfortunately looks like we will not be delivering to the fans the fight they want to see… Happy retirement, you must be feeling amazing leaving the sport thru the back door… To be a legend is not to everyone! Que vergonha @mikebisping !!! O @ufc acabou de me dizer q vc recusou a luta. Eu entendo que vc está com medo. As imagens acima meio que explicam tudo… Então para de fingir que é durão e admite que está com medo. E eu pensei que fosse homem suficiente para subir no octógono comigo outra vez, me enganei… Infelizmente parece que não iremos dar aos fãs a luta que eles querem… Feliz aposentadoria, vc deve estar muito feliz por deixar o esporte pela porta dos fundos… Se tornar uma lenda, realmente não é para qualquer um.. #teambelfort