USA plaudits for cage fighter

Star: Clitheroe cage fighter Michael Bisping is a big star across the pond
Star: Clitheroe cage fighter Michael Bisping is a big star across the pond
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As one of the world’s top mixed martial arts (MMA) competitors, Clitheroe cage fighter Michael Bisping is a major star across the Atlantic.

The dad-of-three is an ex-British domestic champion, who shot to international fame after winning the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter reality TV series in 2006.

Beginning his UFC career as a light heavyweight, the former kickboxer dropped to middleweight, and at the end of 2012, at the age of 33, was ranked number four in the world.

Rob Sinclair, the BAMMA lightweight MMA world champion, trained with Michael during his days in Clitheroe.

Rob, 32, said: “He was already a triple domestic champion, so it was inevitable he was going to go on to do great things really.

“He was dominating everybody on the domestic scene so it was sort of his time when the chance came to go over there.

“I think he would have gone to the UFC regardless, but obviously it propelled him into the limelight quicker than even he expected.”

Michael certainly paid his dues, training hard and working as an upholsterer, a postman, a tiler, a plasterer, a double-glazing door salesman, a DJ, and even making barbecues at Rectella in Clitheroe, to make ends meet.

Rob said: “He was a phenomenal striker and had a lot of dedication. He deserved it because he put the time in.

“He was travelling to Nottingham, training there all week, then coming home at weekends to do a bit of work to earn some money.”

Nicknamed ‘The Count’ because his grandfather was a Polish noble, Michael, who was born on a British military base in Cyprus, now lives in Orange County, California.

His quest for a shot at Anderson Silva’s middleweight title was derailed in January when he lost to Vitor Belfort after taking a kick to the head.

Michael, who has never fought for a UFC title and now has a 23-5 record, had been guaranteed the opportunity if he had won.

After the bout he said: “Sorry guys. Wasn’t good enough tonight. Fair play to Vitor, well done. Thanks to everyone for the kind support, will be back soon.”

It has since been revealed that the 37-year-old Brazilian competed while undergoing an approved regimen of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), a controversial practice of which Bisping has been a fierce critic.

Michael will look to bounce back from the disappointment when he faces Alan Belcher in the co-main event of UFC 159 on April 27 in New Jersey.

In the meantime he has been pursuing a fledgling acting career, which may make him more recognisable to the British public.

His first movie role wasn’t a million miles away from his day job, when he played a former MMA champion in the 2010 street fighter flick Beatdown.

This was followed by a TV part in Hollyoaks Later, a spin off show from the teen soap Hollyoaks, in which he played a sinister gangster, Nathan McAllister, in five episodes.

Now he has been filming a crime thriller called Plastic, which is due for release later this year, after being cast as another gun-toting gangster, called Kasper.

The film also features The Devil’s Double and Ill Manors star Mem Ferda and former Hollyoaks actress Emma Rigby.

On Tuesday Michael tweeted: “Last day on the set of #plastic gonna be an awesome film.”