While most of the focus for this weekend’s UFC on FX 7 main event has fallen on Michael Bisping’s opportunity to earn a shot at middleweight champion Anderson Silva with a win, there’s a lot more at stake for the British fighter than just a chance at earning UFC gold.

His entire legacy could be on the line against Vitor Belfort.

“The Count” has been one of the most consistently good fighters in the UFC since he won The Ultimate Fighter 3 back in 2006, earning a 13-4 record inside the Octagon and constantly sitting inside the top 10 of the middleweight division.

However, despite all of his accomplishments in the UFC, Bisping is still yet to score a win over an opponent that fans would regard as a top-tier fighter, and his struggles against household names have severely hurt his reputation as a legitimate title contender. Bisping has been pigeonholed as nothing more than the most popular British fighter in MMA for quite some time, and to be honest, there was no reason to argue with that for most of that time.

Until 2011, Bisping’s biggest accomplishment outside of winning the reality show was a controversial win over Chris ‘The Crippler” Leben at UFC 89, and the vast majority of fans felt he hadn’t done nearly enough to earn the win that night. The same could be said about “The Count’s” greatest victory prior to that fight as well, a close decision win over Matt Hamill in 2007.

But, despite the controversial nature of his wins, the UFC kept on giving Bisping opportunities to prove he belonged among the elite. After his win over Leben, Bisping earned a shot as the head coach of Team UK on season nine of TUF opposite MMA legend and former Pride champion Dan Henderson, with the winner of their bout supposedly next in line for a shot at the middleweight belt.

While the show gave Bisping the chance to both take out a significant opponent and earn the title shot he desired, the end result was a failure in more than one way.

The most obvious miss on Bisping’s part was the fight against Henderson itself. “The Count” ended up on the wrong end of Henderson’s trademark “H-Bombs” and was brutally knocked out in the second round of the bout in one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history.

On top of that, the reality show didn’t exactly do Bisping any favors in terms of gaining fans. The Team US vs. Team UK season was a great idea for television, but with the show based in the United States it automatically made Bisping the leader of the team that everyone wanted to see lose, and Bisping had no problem in playing the role of the villain. Bisping’s trash talk and antics made for good television, but opposite the mild-mannered Henderson, he came off looking like a bit of a jerk, something that has stuck with him throughout his MMA career.

Since the loss to Henderson, Bisping has been fighting at an extremely high level, going 6-2 with both losses coming by close and controversial decision, but he’s still yet to earn the big win that confirms his status as one of the best middleweights in MMA history.

He came extremely close to spoiling the Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen rematch when he pushed Sonnen to the limit early last year, stuffing Sonnen’s takedown attempts for most of the first two rounds and firing off combinations when he could. But in the end, he just wasn’t able to do enough to earn the nod. While the loss certainly knocked Bisping back a slot or two on the middleweight ladder, his game effort against one of the top fighters in the division caused his reputation among fans to change.

Even without the marquee win he’s been longing for, Bisping earned a new level of respect for his performance and was finally getting mentioned along with the elite fighters at 185.

Now, following an impressive unanimous decision win over Brian Stann at UFC 152, Bisping finally has the chance to prove that he’s the top-notch fighter he’s been claiming to be for years if he can beat Vitor Belfort on Saturday night.

Throughout his MMA career, Belfort has only lost to the best of the best. Top names like Randy Couture, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones are among those who have defeated “The Phenom” over the course of his 17-year MMA run, and if Bisping is able to add his name to a group of that caliber, it will do wonders for his reputation as a legitimate title contender.

Bisping’s opportunity to become a MMA legend starts and ends on Saturday night. A win makes him one of the top middleweights of the modern era and gives him a shot to cement his status as a great fighter if he can upset Silva. A loss leaves his legacy as nothing more than the cocky Brit who was never good enough to even earn a title fight.

Photo: Michael Bisping (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.