Michael Bisping has lived a storied life to say that least, but as they say, all’s well that ends well.
Growing up in Clitheroe, Lancashire, Bisping started training in Mixed Martial Arts when he was just eight-years-old and he was immediately hooked.
Speaking to talkSPORT while promoting the opening of new UFC gyms in the UK, Bisping explained: “I was always a fighter.
“I started doing Japanese Jiu Jitsu, but at the end of the class we would put the boxing gloves on and just have a tear up, so that kept me coming back week after week.
“I finally found something I was good at and it gave me something to work towards and I became totally and utterly obsessed with it and I had a lot of success entering competitions.
“Growing up I never knew what I wanted to do, I was lost for a while and with the explosion of the UFC and mixed martial arts, it gave me something to work towards and strive towards.”
Before Bisping could start earning real money from the sport, however, he had to work a number of other jobs.
“I’ve done everything under the sun,” Bisping said. “I worked as a tiler, a plasterer, on construction sites, in factories, door to door salesman, you name it, I have done it all.”
Bisping continued: “In Clitheroe, one of the main employers is a slaughterhouse there, so everyone has done a little stint up there. I wasn’t there very long, but the whole thing was very shocking, the process of it all.”
There was even a time before the UFC when Bisping found himself doing a short stint in prison, as he explained: “I did a lot of martial arts when I was younger and my dad was always proud of me and he would put me in the local paper.
“But, then when I was old enough to start going out for a beer, some of the older guys would be like ‘oh, here he is, karate kid,’ and all the rest of it and I found myself getting into a few fights.
“And one time it was actually a public order offence and the judge gave me 28 days and that was a turning point for my life, because I hit rock bottom.
“I went to prison and it was a wake up call, I knew I was better than that and it wasn’t how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, so that was the wake up call I needed.
“Even though at the time I was very critical of the judge because it seemed like a harsh ruling, but it was the lesson I needed to get my life back on track.”
In terms of what it was like in prison, Bisping added: “It was terrible. It was a maximum security prison and I had no business being there, so I was transferred pretty quickly.
“I was locked up 24 hours a day, you walk downstairs to get your breakfast, eat it back in your cell and it was the same with lunch and dinner.
“Get out once a week to walk around in a circle and it was grim, it was awful and it was not somewhere that I ever wanted to return to.
“I remember when I was in the holding cell it was not somewhere I ever wanted to return to, it was the dregs of society and I was thinking I’m better than this, I need to wise up.”
And Bisping did exactly that, as he relocated to America and signed with the UFC after winning The Ultimate Fighter.
During his time with the UFC, Bisping came up against Vitor Belfort in 2013 and he sustained an injury, which forced him to get his right eye removed.
This threatened to end his fighting career, but he did return to the Octagon and three years later Bisping pulled off the seemingly impossible by beating Luke Rockhold to win the UFC middleweight world title.
Asked whether he was surprised by the heights he managed to reach in MMA, Bisping responded: “I always had a vision in my head.
“First of all I wanted to become a professional fighter and make enough money to go back to college and get an education and a real job.
“But, in the grander scheme of things, an ex-coach told me that the UFC is huge in the states, you can make real money and the champions are bona fide celebrities, they’re making movies and they’re action stars, so he put that vision in my head and that was always the goal that I wasn’t too public with and it all came true.
“So, it’s amazing what a human being is capable of when they’re focused, determined and willing to work hard.
“Anyone can do anything in life as long as they’re honest with their expectations and realistic with their goal. For me I always believed in myself, but it was a lot of hard-work and I was able to achieve a lot of great things.”
And now, as he had hoped for, having retired from fighting in 2018, Bisping is forging an acting career in Hollywood and he has already enjoyed considerable success.
He remarked: “Acting is great, and it’s certainly a challenge for me and it’s something new and it’s not something I ever thought I’d find myself talking about.
“But I get a competitive thrill out of that as well. I’m not exactly smashing it to bits as an actor, but I’m getting steady work.”
Bisping has been in movies such as ‘XXX: Return of Xander Cage’ alongside Vin Diesel, with whom he is still in touch, and Samuel L Jackson, and he is now set to appear in ‘Den of Thieves 2’ with Gerard Butler, having made a small cameo in the first film.
“Vin Diesel and I became good friends,” Bisping revealed, “and he still reaches out to this day and texts me. He came on my documentary and spoke on there, so I was honoured.”
And as for the dynamic between a movie ‘hard man’ and a real life ‘hard man’, Bisping said: “Vin’s no walkover, let me tell you, he spent a lot of time working on the doors in New York City, so he’s seen his fair share of unpleasant circumstances.
“But, he’s a great guy. I’ve met some wonderful people through mixed martial arts, through combat sports and through the acting world. There’s some great people out there.”
As well as acting, Bisping is now a UFC commentator and analyst, and he is part of the opening of new UFC gyms all over the UK, with the one in London set to open later this year.