If ‘UFC’ stood for Ultimate Fan-support Championship, Britain’s Michael Bisping would not only be the reigning Light Heavyweight Champion but, in all probability, would be a Hall of Famer, too.
Already a favourite among the UFC faithful over in the USA, Bisping’s arrival as a star on his own side of the Atlantic was announced by a thunderous roar from the sold out MEN Arena, in Manchester, England, in April 21.
Fans at Octagonside for Bisping’s UFC 70 fight against veteran Elvis Sinosic later reported that they could physically feel the sound waves reverberating around the building as Bisping charged down the aisle.
It was one of the loudest and most sustained cheers perhaps in UFC history and even seasoned and cynical writers in the press rows couldn’t deny the incredible excitement and skull rattling noise generated by the UK‘s new No.1 fighter.
One well known boxing reporter, who was experiencing the thrill of the UFC for the first time, wrote: “I’ve been present for many memorable fight nights at the MEN over the years for fighters like Prince Naseem, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins, Ricky Hatton and even Mike Tyson, but I’d never heard - or felt – any atmosphere like this. It was akin to a religious experience.”
And Bisping said: “I just couldn’t believe the reception I got when I came out for my fight at UFC 66 in Las Vegas (December 2006) but the sheer noise at the MEN before my fight was absolutely amazing. I still can’t believe it. You think to yourself ‘Wow. Is
this really all for me? What did I do what’s so special?’”
Even UFC President Dana White, who has long predicted big things for the Count, seemed taken aback by the deafening roar the British gave their fighter.
“He’s a superstar,” White said.
Tonight, though, Bisping is a superstar turned UFC fan and supporter as he sits down on the safe side of the Octagon fencing at the Odyssey Arena.
But the Count said: “I’m sure the fans in Belfast will get behind their fighters every bit as much as the crowd at the MEN Arena got behind me. Belfast is known as a real fight town, it has had that reputation for generations after producing some great boxers, and I know they will really make some noise and support their own.”
The Ultimate Fighter 3 champion added: “And it really does help when you’ve got that kind of support from the fans. Or, at least, it certainly helped me when Elvis caught me in that Kimura in the second round. I thought to myself ‘%&*%, this is in really tight but there’s no way I am tapping and disappointing these fans.’”