Mixed Martial Arts in the UK has never been better. Fact.
Across multiple divisions we see future contenders and champions emerging like never before.
Tom Aspinall (12-2) sees himself probably just one win away from a Heavyweight title shot. Arnold Allen (18-1) is ranked number 6 in the Featherweight division and is undefeated in the UFC in his 9 bouts with the organisation. Which is one of the longest win streaks currently in all of the UFC roster. Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett (18-3), how can we forget Paddy? Winning both his UFC appearances so far, by finish, Paddy is not only a tremendous fighter, but he is also one of the most talked about. Whether it be good or bad, fans, fighters and foes are talking about “The Baddy”. For good reason.
We can also boast about fighters like Paul Craig (16-4-1), undefeated Jack Shore (16-0) and my personal favourite Flyweight, Muhammad Mokaev (7-0).
All that being said though, all these UK fighters above and many before them… Nothing they have done yet, has compared to or is likely to ever compare to what one man did.
Shall I set the scene?
You’re 37 years old, most people think your time in the sport in futile. You completely lost the use of one of your eyes and you’re having to manipulate medicals to even get the go ahead to compete. UFC 199 is 17 days away and your boss asked you to fight for the Middleweight Belt against a guy who already convincingly beat you not too long ago. You’ve got to cut over 30lbs to fight. Ask yourself, would you take the fight?
Our man, our Mancunian, Mr Michael Bisping did.
Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping took that fight. Bisping had never fought for the title, he did come close to challenging for it a couple of times but always fell short at the last hurdle. This would be his chance, his first and last chance to become the first British UFC Champion.
June 4th, 2016. The Forum, Inglewood California. UFC 199. 6 years to the day of this post. Michael Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold 3:36 in the very first round. Dana White wrapped gold around a British fighter, for the first time. “The Count” had done it.
Now, I don’t know what makes this win more monumental. The fact he beat rival Luke Rockhold with a Knockout? The fact he had one eye at the time? The fact it was on such short notice? The weight cut? The first time British Champ?! All of it. It was all of it. We finally had a Champion, and he did it the hardest way possible. No one deserved it more. I wish I could relive the moment Big John McCarthy pulled Bisping off Rockhold’s unconscious body again. I’ve never felt happiness for someone like that before. Knowing what he went through to get there.
I can’t see anyone having the story of Bisping again but I definitely see us having a British Champ again. Who that might be? My money is on Tom Aspinall or Muhammad Mokaev. With only more talent coming out of Britain though, our time is coming.