Michael Bisping on prison, acting, becoming a champion and British UFC prospects

Michael Bisping
Michael Bisping is the only British fighter to win a UFC title

Michael Bisping served time in a maximum security prison and worked "every job under the sun" to pay the bills before making it as a professional mixed martial arts fighter.

He would go on to become the first, and so far only, Briton to win a UFC title.

In March, the 40-year-old was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame for his exploits in the sport's top promotion.

He racked up 30 wins from 39 professional fights during his career and beat Luke Rockhold to become middleweight world champion in 2016.

Having announced his retirement in May last year, Bisping says he is "busier than ever" working on a number of projects that include writing an autobiography and a burgeoning acting career.

Here, Bisping talks BBC Sport through his time in jail, making it in the UFC, what it meant to become a champion and why he eventually had to call time on his career.

Going to jail and doing 'crap' jobs

Michael Bisping
Bisping made his professional debut in 2004 and reached the UFC two years later after beating Josh Haynes in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter television series

Bisping's partner Rebecca was seven months pregnant when he found himself serving 28 days in prison for his part in a brawl at a pub. He says doing time, and working "crap jobs", made him focus on what he wanted from life.

That was the turning point in my life. I had to make some changes, obviously you don't want to make that a habit and I didn't expect that to happen.

It was a total shock. My friend was getting beaten up, a bit of a fight happened and I ended up getting charged with a public order offence. My solicitor advised me to plead guilty - just get a little slap on the wrist, a £50 fine or something. I ended up getting sent down for a month.

But in hindsight it did me a favour, because when I was in there I was like 'wow. This is not me at all, I am better than this'. That set me off on my road to recovery, for want of a better word.

It was bloody miserable. I was locked up with an arsonist, so I had to keep an eye on him. I definitely had a lot of time to reflect.

I've done every job under the sun - you name it, I've done it... and not for very long either! Because I didn't like them, they were crap. I'm not going to get out of bed and go to a rubbish job I don't like, but doing those things kind of moulded me.

That's what made me train so hard because I never wanted to go back to doing almost minimum wage jobs where you're not respected, not appreciated, not earning any money and you're working your arse off to pay the bills.

The fact I have been there is what made me push so hard in my training camps because I never wanted to go back to that lifestyle.

'Making it' and becoming a UFC champion

Michael Bisping
Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold to win the UFC middleweight title in June 2016 and successfully defended the belt against Dan Henderson, before losing to Georges St-Pierre in November 2017

Bisping made his UFC debut in December 2006 and beat Luke Rockhold in a middleweight title contest to become the first British champion on the promotion a decade later.

It took me a while to feel like I'd made it. I'm not the kind of guy to rest on my laurels - I had been in the UFC for a long time.

I remember I was driving in Clitheroe one day and I suddenly realised I'm in a really nice new car, I've got money in the bank, I've got fights coming up, I've got a movie coming up.

I was driving past this old pub I used to hang out in, I took an external look at myself and thought 'wow, I've come a long way' and I just went 'yes!' to myself. I was like 'yeah, I've done it. I've turned my life around and become someone'.

Certainly becoming the champion was a lifelong dream. That was huge for me, massive. To be the first champ and the only champ is still something I am very proud of. I am not the last though, it's only a matter of time before we get another one.

That was definitely a huge point for me. I got a lot of respect from people and it opened doors. I think from winning the belt on the Saturday, I checked my emails on the Monday morning and I had two movie offers. People want to be associated with world champions and it helps with endorsements.

All that type of stuff is cool, that's great, but it is side benefits. For me, it was about pride and achieving what I could - getting to the highest level in the sport I chose to do. All the extra money, the financial benefits, that's really good - but on a personal note, to achieve that was bigger than anything else.

Retiring and Hall of Fame 'surprise'

Michael Bisping
Bisping announced his retirement in May 2018 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at UFC London in March

Bisping stepped in as a late replacement to fight Kelvin Gastelum three weeks after his title defeat by Georges St-Pierre and suffered a knockout in the first round. He announced his retirement in May 2018 and the following March was inducted into the Hall of Fame at UFC London.

The fact I had fought for the belt, won the belt, defended the belt, that was all huge for me and I was happy to walk away. I had some big, big fights towards the end of my career. A massive fight with Georges St-Pierre at Madison Square Garden.

I managed to stick some money away so it all paid off, it was worthwhile. The time was right. I had a lot of injuries to my eye which I still suffer with to this day. I had done it all.

At one point I had the most fights in the UFC, I had the most wins. What more are you going to do? You can't keep doing it forever - move on to new challenges.

Being named in the Hall of Fame was like a legacy moment because I was really proud of my career. So to be honoured by them for life, I am tremendously proud that I can still represent the UK in my own little way there.

I had no idea it was going to happen, it was a really pleasant surprise and a very proud moment.

Forging an acting career

Since he has retired, Bisping has actively pursued an acting career that began when he was still fighting. He has had roles in a number of movies as well as appearing in television series such as Hollyoaks and Twin Peaks.

Never in a million years did I think I would get into acting! I stumbled across a part in a pretty crappy movie but it was a big part and I was on the front cover. I'd never acted, never done anything like that in my life.

Anything I do I want to do well, so I got an acting coach and I prepared for it. We filmed in Austin, Texas and when I was out there I was so nervous. I did a good job. The director was like 'wow, you are really good at this considering it's your first time - you should try and pursue this'.

So when I moved to America I got myself an agent and I enjoyed it as well.

I did a little stint on Hollyoaks pretty soon after that. So far it's going really good, I've done some pretty good movies and and got some good roles lined up for the end of this year. I was filming Warriors in South Africa last month and have a couple of movies lined up.

Who will be the next British champion?

UFC
Bisping has backed Leon Edwards, Darren Till and Nathaniel Wood to follow in his footsteps as potential UFC champions

Bisping says he may be the first British UFC champion but certainly won't be the last. Here he picks who may be the next.

Three names spring to mind - Leon Edwards, Darren Till and Nathaniel Wood. All three have the potential to be a champion.

Nathaniel Wood is nicknamed 'The Prospect' and he really is a hot prospect. He is looking really good and Brad Pickett trains him.

Leon Edwards has an eight-fight win streak and just beat Rafael dos Anjos in the main event last week. He'll have a big, big fight next and if he wins that will probably get a title fight.

Tilly fought for the belt, he fell short but he's only 26 and he'll be back.

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