When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
How Clitheroe kid Bisping made it big in US
MICHAEL Bisping did not expect life to turn out quite as good as this.
A former kick boxer from the rural town of Clitheroe, he was always ambitious.
Now, he is one of the UFC’s biggest stars, familiar to millions in America and with a home in southern California.
“When I got into this I wanted to be world champion,” Bisping said this week.
“But I’m also a realist. I just wanted to be able to earn enough money so I could quit work, go to college, get some qualifications and get a proper job.
“Never in a million years did I expect this.”
Before he made it, Bisping worked in factories and slaughterhouses, as an upholsterer, a postman, a tiler, a plasterer and a double glazing salesman. Perhaps appropriately, he also did demolition work.
Today, you can walk into shops in the United States and buy a Bisping action figure, such is his fame on the other side of the Atlantic.
“It’s crazy,” he laughs. “I don’t own one of the little action figures, but I wouldn’t mind one so I can show the grandkids one day!
“You’ve got be careful what you say because you sound like you’ve disappeared up your own backside, but UFC is huge in America.
“It’s shown on Fox Sports. You’ll go from NFL to a baseball match to UFC. That’s the company it keeps.
“When you go out you get stopped all the time, 20 or 30 times everywhere you go.
“Sometimes you’re in a rush – more often than not I’m late, I’m not known for my organisation! – and somebody wants to get a picture and you have to say, ‘I’m really in a rush’.
“But I try to be friendly to be everybody. It’s nice to be recognised for the hard work that you put in.”
The 34-year-old fights in England for the first time in three years on October 26, against Mark Munoz at Manchester’s Phones 4u Arena – previously the MEN Arena.
We speak upon Bisping’s whistlestop return to the country to publicise the fight, before returning to America to complete his training camp. As part of the press launch, he spent time training with Ricky Hatton at the former world champion boxer’s gym in Hyde.
“Ricky is a boxing legend and a British icon. I’m a fan so it was quite an experience,” he said.
Bisping has had so many experiences in the last few years that he could never have imagined.
“I’ve fought in Sao Paulo, Sydney, Toronto and Calgary, places I would never have been to,” he said. “I went to Afghanistan to visit the troops, and to Abu Dhabi. I love doing what I do and fortunately I’ve been successful and obviously there are financial rewards.
“I’ve lived in Orange County for just over two years now. It’s about 30 or 40 minutes south of Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful place.
“But I certainly I haven’t turned my back on England. You only get one career and it’s just about maximising my potential.
“When I’m in America I say Manchester is my home city, because no-one has heard of Clitheroe. But I’m from the Ribble Valley, from Clitheroe, and I love it there. My partner and my three children are in America with me but my other family – brothers and sisters and parents – are in Clitheroe.
“When I’m driving from the airport to Clitheroe and going through the beautiful countryside, there’s no place like home.”
Bisping, who was actually born in Cyprus during his father’s time in the Armed Forces, admits he would support Blackburn Rovers over Burnley – although his interest in football is only a fleeting one.
His life has been devoted to climbing the ranks in mixed martial arts. He became an official UFC fighter eight years ago.
By far the biggest British name in UFC, Bisping has become its standard bearer in this country.
The publicity drive is being cranked up. An advert for Bisping’s fight flashed up on the electronic hoardings pitchside at kick-off of England’s football match in Ukraine. It was aimed at the British audience.
“There is a certain level of recognition here,” Bisping said.
“It’s not on the same level as the States but people are aware of what I do and who I am.
“The sport is building now.
“They’re going to be showing more fights at a decent hour, because prior to this fight they were always at 3am, so it’s hard to form a fanbase.
“But for me, nothing beats fighting in England.”
The middleweight has won 24 of his 29 bouts but is yet to secure the world title challenge he has always dreamed of.
His last fight ended in victory over Alan Belcher in April, and now he has been told that an impressive performance against the American Munoz could earn him his long awaited shot.
“If I win this fight impressively I could possibly be fighting for the title in spring next year, the UFC have said that,” Bisping said.
“I want to be the first British UFC champion. We’ve never had one and I’d love to be the first one and make history.
“I could take that one to the grave with me and maybe trade on it a little bit and make a few quid out of it!
“I don’t just want to be one of the roster, I want to be the champion.”
* Tickets for UFC Manchester 2013: Bisping v Munoz are available from ticketmaster.co.uk and phones4uarena.co.uk.
Comments are closed on this article.