On November 4, Michael Bisping was battered.
The then UFC middleweight champion entered the cage against longtime welterweight king Georges St. Pierre for a defense of his crown. But, was on the wrong end of a destructive performance from the Canadian fighter who hadn’t competed in four years.
While Bisping ultimately lost by submission, he took a grueling amount of punishment in the process. His face was cut and he had been dropped with punches numerous times.
At 38, some questioned whether it was the end of the road for ‘The Count’, who achieved his dream of winning a world championship.
Ultimately, he and the UFC decided it wasn’t. Just days after the loss to St. Pierre, it was announced that Anderson Silva had failed another drug test ahead of his headlining gig in Shanghai against Kelvin Gastelum. And none other than Bisping would be filling in. The headlining gig in Shanghai is just 21 days removed from his fight with St. Pierre.
The announcement was a shocking one, of course. Just days before, Bisping had taken arguably the worst beating in recent memory. So bad, in fact, that he looked poised for a potential retirement from the sport.
Take into account that the New York State Athletic Commission handed down a 30-day suspension, Bisping’s launch into the main event of UFC Shanghai looks downright reckless.
China isn’t regulated under the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports. That’s something the UFC is taking full advantage of by having this fight go through.
For a sport in mixed martial arts and a company in the UFC that prides itself on the safety of its fights—a laughable statement for any combat sports promotion to make—this is a dangerous move to make. It would be unsafe with a young fighter with no previous history of knockouts to take the fight. But a 38-year-old fighter who is just 21 days removed from an exhausting, punishing loss? That’s irresponsible.
The UFC deserves credit for forcing the retirements of some of their great fighters. Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes are two such fighters that come to mind. They have, in very general terms, done what is right by the fighter when it comes to health care. The promotion was involved in the creation and implementation of many of the rules we see used today.
There is no way to make mixed martial arts a safe sport. This isn’t hockey where you can try to remove fighting and blows to the head. Without those things, the sport is dead. In 2017, all the fighters know the inherit risks associated with the sport. You will get concussions. You will get brain damage. And, you likely won’t know when to stop.
But that’s where the UFC and other promoters are supposed to come in. Bisping will be applauded for his toughness, as if we needed any reminder. He’s one of the best and most durable fighters the sport has ever seen. And when he does finally end his career, there should be both a hall of fame ring and a life-long job waiting on the other side. His commentary has been an interesting, well-studied part of the game and he’s shown a willingness to grow and evolve.
Of course, Bisping, who can see that his career is nearing an end, wants to keep fighting. These guys always do.
The UFC has done both Bisping and their fanbase a disservice in allowing this fight to take place. They should feel ashamed that they’ve put profit ahead of fighter safety.
Especially a fighter who has given so much to the company over the last decade.