Clitheroe UFC legend Michael Bisping in Manchester for 'Tales from the Octagon' tour

UFC's first ever British champion Michael Bisping is looking forward to reconnecting with fans when he starts his 'Tales from the Octagon' UK tour.
Michael Bisping. Photo: Duke LorenMichael Bisping. Photo: Duke Loren
Michael Bisping. Photo: Duke Loren

The retired Clitheroe mixed martial artist, now a top UFC commentator and host of the 'Believe You Me' podcast, will be pulling no punches when he takes to the Manchester O2 Apollo stage on Friday, October 8th.

From fighting his way across the country in his early years while working in factories and sleeping in cars, to heading across the Atlantic and winning UFC gold, this show will take spectators on an entertaining ride through The Count's extraordinary life.

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How does it feel that you're doing this tour, it must be quite exciting?

Yeah it’s exciting, a little nerve wracking as well to be honest. I did one in 2019. It kind of came together accidentally. A friend of a friend who is an agent pitched it as an idea and I was on tour quite a lot at the time so I thought ‘yeah why not?’. We did it and we kind of just winged it and everybody loved it! There were about 600/700 people there and it was a really good time. I had a good laugh. Everyone enjoyed it and I thought to myself ‘wow I'm going to bring this back to England and Scotland and the rest’. I’m excited as I say a little nervous because it would be a little embarrassing to walk out and nobody was there. For me in the UK the support I always got when I was fighting was unbelievable so it is a great opportunity to come back and reconnect with everyone who supported my career.

It sounds like you are looking forward to it. It sounds like it's going to be very you, having fun with your fans. Not a dull and serious sports thing?

100%! If anyone’s seen my podcast they know we’re a little silly and laugh at ourselves and other people, not being mean just taking the piss out of everything and anything. So it's going to be in that tone, self deprecating just having a laugh with the audience and me and Luis going back and forth. It’s going to be fun, the idea is for everyone to come and have a good laugh.

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Obviously the UK has always been close to your heart because it's where it all began for you, so bringing it back here does that make it even more special?

100%. I am so grateful for all the support that I ever got. The first time I fought for the UFC was UFC 70, I didn't expect anyone in the arena would even know who I was - and when I walked out it exploded! It blew my mind from that day and I made a point of thanking everyone for their support because the people really got behind and supported me. So for me coming to Scotland, England and Ireland… it’s a big deal. I’ve always been the guy that says what's on my mind, maybe to a fault at times, that got me in some hot water but I think people resonate with that doing this. I’m very excited, Manchester, London, Glasgow, Dublin. I have a lot of Irish family so it will be good to hopefully connect with some of them as well

You had that incredible motivation of supporting your family, that was what it was all about for you wasn’t it? That was the real drive.

Of course, 100%. You want to give your kids and your partner the best life possible. Fortunately I figured out a way to provide better for them. It was a gamble at the time, mixed martial arts was not the sport that it is now, nobody knew what I was doing. It didn’t make sense to a lot of people but fortunately it all paid off. It was always the motivation.

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That really was the beginning of it, did you realise that at the time when the UFC came to you did you know this was the life changing moment?

I had no idea to be honest. I was in Las Vegas living in a mansion with a bunch of other people on a reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter and thought ‘wow this is real’. A Lot of people were just there for a good time and get on TV and get a bit of fame but none of that mattered to me. I was there to win simple as that. Fortunately I was able to do that but when I had my first fight in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas I was there by myself, no corner men or nothing, and I walked out. I couldn’t believe it the arena erupted because I had been on TV in America for the past 12 weeks and I thought ‘this isn’t bad’. At the time I was kind of oblivious to it.

Was that a penny drop moment? Walking out to the arena that night or maybe afterwards when you had won.

Yeah that was good in Vegas from the American perspective. But I didn’t know in England when I came back to Clitheroe it's just a small town so I had no idea. But when I walked out they went ballistic. Some journalist said they had been in a building for Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and never heard a crowd that loud, it was deafening. The adrenaline just went to my head, I sprinted to the Octagon so yeah, that was when I realised everyone in England had been watching as well and it had paid off.

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When you injured your eye, it must have been quite weird in a way because you won the World Title and defended it with one eye. You almost must have wanted to tell people that at the time because it made it an even bigger achievement. But you couldn’t because you’d be stopped from fighting.

I did yeah, and to be honest I remember the first Rockhold fight that I lost I wanted to talk about it then because what happened was there was a clash of heads right before I flew out to Australia for the fight and I had a big cut above my good eye. I remember I was walking into the arena fight day and one of the UFC staff ran over to me and said ‘Michael the doctor needs to see you’ and I said ‘why’ and they said ‘it’s something to do with your eye’. My heart sank and I thought ‘I’m rumbled’. I went to see the doctor and he said’ you've got stitches on your eye Michael we’re gonna take those out, you can’t fight on TV with stitches on your eye’. I thought I dodged another bullet. They took the stitches out and in the first round of the fight immediately there was a clash of heads, the cut opened up and there was blood pouring into my eye and I’ve only got one. I can’t really see so I wiped the blood and it smeared it across my eye, but then more blood comes in and when I blink everything is just red and I can’t really see. It’s like if you get a tub of paint and pour it over your windscreen then turn your windscreen wipers on, it’s going to be all blurry. So I couldn’t really see when I was wiping it out my eye, I guess I got a head kick and finished off, I had to stand there and take it and I wanted to say at the press conference that I was blind but if I said that I was rumbled and my career was done. So that was hard. I had to bite my tongue and say nothing, but that's why I knew in the rematch I was so confident because I was like I know what happened but I couldn’t say that.