Michael Bisping was the foundation upon which the UFC built their British fan base. After emerging onto the international scene as the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 3 the Englishman was the driving force behind the UFC’s European expansion.
On the back of Bisping’s TUF success the UFC scheduled its first English event for five years. UFC 70 took place in Manchester, not far from Bisping’s home, and the unbeaten middleweight was given an eminently winnable fight against veteran Elvis Sinosic.
It was in the UFC's interests for Bisping to remain unbeaten and he duly obliged, surviving a series of submission attempts before stopping Sinosic in the second round. The next time the UFC appeared on English soil Bisping again featured prominently with a fight against fellow TUF alumni Matt Hammil which he was also expected to win comfortably.
UFC 75 did not go entirely according to plan for the Englishman as, while he did win a split decision over Hammil, it was an extremely controversial one and he did not look particularly impressive in the process.
The UFC were still sufficiently impressed by Bisping to invite him to headline UFC 78 against Rashad Evans and this time it was Bisping who was on the wrong side of a split decision as Evans handed him the first loss of his career.
Bisping responded by dropping down to middleweight and initially enjoyed substantial success at the slightly smaller weight. He beat Charles McCarthy, Jason Day and Chris Leben in quick succession to secure a spot as coach on the ninth installment of The Ultimate Fighter series.
Perhaps aware that his UFC longevity would one day be on the line Bisping chose to play the role of cartoon villain, taking every available opportunity to wind up Dan Henderson and his American team.
The plan backfired spectacularly when Bisping was knocked out cold by Henderson at UFC 100 and then punched a couple more times for good measure. TUF 9 had given the UFC’s paying customers an appetite for seeing Bisping get beaten but UFC 100 provided an emphatic answer to their prayers.
In the eyes of the American public at least Bisping had gotten his comeuppance for waging a campaign of constant irritation against Henderson on the reality TV show. While his appeal in the UK was not diminished to quite the same extent, English fight fans now had a new hero, Dan Hardy, who at this stage had won both his fights inside the Octagon.
With one foot already firmly in the English MMA market place the UFC was no longer quite so dependant upon Bisping. However he made a triumphant return to Manchester at UFC 105 convincingly defeating Dennis Kang in round two in what turned out to be the fight of the night.
Bisping’s next fight was against another man who had recently moved down a weight division, Brazilian Pride veteran Wanderlei Silva. It had all the makings of a make or break fight for both men but it was Silva who emerged victorious, winning a decision on all three judge's scorecards.
It is a testament to how fast Bisping’s stock is falling that he will not be involved in either of the top two headlining fights on the card at his next UFC appearance. Were Bisping to be defeated by Dan Miller at UFC 114 he would have lost three out of his last four UFC fights and his future within the organization would be far from certain.
Such is the reputation that he has established for himself since storming to victory at TUF 3 the organization will be extremely reluctant to release him. Miller is coming off back to back UFC losses and holds a less than outstanding Octagon record of 3-2. The UFC obviously still regards Bisping as a sufficiently marketable asset to want him to return to winning ways and the idea is presumably that he should do so at UFC 114.
If Bisping can hand Miller his third consecutive loss than the UFC is likely to embrace him with open arms once again and fights against the leading lights of the middleweight division will surely follow. While a loss would not necessarily signal the end of his UFC career it would send him even further down the card and he might find future appearances restricted to UFC events in England.
Bisping only previous losses have been at the hands of the very best but Dan Miller definitely does not fall into this category and this will be a make or break fight for Bisping. He has bounced back from both his previous defeats and he will need to return to winning ways again on May 29. If he does not, his Octagon days may be numbered.