I wanna be adored: Avenge defeat, and Bisping will earn Manchester acclaim
Fighters are remembered not just for records and belts, but for seminal moments, and the 37-year-old can have his at UFC 204
Manchester has always embraced its fighters.
Boxing world champions Ricky Hatton and Anthony Crolla, in particular, have been heroes in the city in the past decade.
But Michael Bisping, Britain’s first ever UFC champion who grew up in nearby Clitheroe, has received nowhere near the same level of appreciation.
That is despite him embodying all the qualities that Manchester fans value most in their fighters.
The 37-year-old is not a dominating physical presence, extraordinary athlete or skilled technician.
Instead, his success in the Octagon is built upon rugged toughness and a relentless work-rate.
Boxing, of course, has a greater history in Manchester than mixed martial arts – a sport that is still growing in Britain thanks to the success of the UFC.
Bisping’s choice of discipline cannot be blamed for his relatively low profile, though, especially when you consider the immense popularity that Conor McGregor has achieved around the world.
Like the Irishman, Bisping uses braggadocio and name-calling to sell his fights.
But while McGregor is treated like a superhero in the sport of MMA, the Englishman has often been cast as a villain to be vanquished.
McGregor has consistently backed his trash talk with important, emphatic wins over the best opponents in his division.
Bisping, however, does not have the career-defining wins to reinforce his arrogant persona, even as the current middleweight champion.
With seven defeats in his 26-fight UFC career, he has always lingered just below the elite level of the 185lb ranks, and rarely ends his bouts with dramatic stoppages.
His long-time role as a gatekeeper to the upper echelons of the division makes his current four-fight winning streak – which culminated in a first-round victory over Luke Rockhold to claim the title – even more remarkable.
Ultimately, though, he needs knockouts – the kind of emphatic victories that he has suffered in the past against Vitor Belfort and his next opponent, Dan Henderson.
The former Olympian knocked Bisping out cold with a vicious right hook in one of the sport’s most memorable fights, back in 2009 at UFC 100.
That punch, and the sickening follow-up blow that Henderson planted on his chin after he hit the canvas, have haunted the Englishman ever since.
Just this week he admitted that he had not watched the first fight at all in the past seven years until the time came to study for the rematch.
Fighters are remembered not just for undefeated records and championship belts, but for seminal moments.
Ricky Hatton’s body-shot knockout of Jose Luis Castillo, for example, says far more about him as a boxer than his defeats to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Saturday night offers Bisping not just the chance to defend his title, then, nor the opportunity to finally enter the ranks of celebrated Manchester fighters.
An emphatic win over a UFC legend like Henderson would finally allow him to move on from the punch that has long overshadowed any of his achievements in the Octagon.