Michael Bisping’s plane ticket did not go to waste. The “Count”
is back home, back in the place he was supposed to be all along.
It’s just the circumstances that are so wildly different than
expected. He was supposed to be headlining on Saturday night, in
the arena he frequented as a boy. He was supposed to bathe in the
wild reception for his arrival. But there is little fanfare for him
now. Instead, it’s pats on the back and words of encouragement for
him to get well soon.
It was just recently when Bisping feared he’d lost it all.
Amazingly, he’d fought back-to-back fights against Alan Belcher and
Vitor Belfort when he finally confirmed what he’d long suspected,
that something was wrong with his right eye, He’d detached his
retina. After having it operated on once, in September, it had
detached again due to scar tissue buildup.
To Bisping, the tragedy wasn’t in the fact that his vision might
forever be affected — a real possibility — instead, it was that
his career was in jeopardy.
“All I was concerned about was my career and fighting,” the
34-year-old said on Wednesday. “This defines me as a person. It is
what I do. I’ve come to a point now where I’ve been in
the UFC for a long time but I still haven’t had a title shot. I
still haven’t been a world champion. I still feel like I’ve got a
lot to prove in the sport. Because I’ve been around a while,
I’m towards the higher end of the pay scale as well. It’s my
career, it’s my job. That’s what I do. I just bought a house. I was
like, ‘S—, is this where it ends?'”
While it’s easy to understand his concern for losing his
livelihood, it’s hard to imagine that he’d be willing
to trade an eye for a few more years in the cage. Told that many
people would be in disbelief of his Faustian tradeoff, Bisping
“I’ve got two eyes,” he said. “All jokes
aside, I was a little worried.”
Yet faced with the problem and forced out of his bout with Mark
Munoz, Bisping never partook in any self-pity. Instead, all his
focus was on the future.
Bisping had an artificial drain placed in his eye. It is still
there and will continue to embed itself deeper as time passes. For
now, his eye is still red around the outer edges, still going
through the healing process which is expected to last several more
months. During it, he’s being closely monitored; he drives to
see his doctor every two days to ensure the scar tissue isn’t
“It’s quite funny, somebody on Twitter recently
said, ‘If you were to be a superhero and could have any
power, what would it be?’ And I thought, ‘undetachable
retinas,’” he said. “But hopefully this whole
episode is behind me now. I’m doing all the correct things.
The doctors are very happy.”
While he waits, he isn’t waiting around. When the time
comes for clearance, he wants to be ready to go at a moment’s
notice. Unlike some fighters who blow up during injuries, he’s
dieting, eating as though he’s preparing for a fight in order to
keep his weight down. He’s partaking in some exercise. He’s
visualizing the future.
His hope, which is to say, his belief, is that he’ll be back in
the octagon in about six months, ready to step right back into the
He’d like the winner of Saturday’s fight between
Mark Munoz and Lyoto Machida — he expects it to be Machida — and
he’s interested in the London date that has been discussed
for March 2014.
In order to make it, and it is on the early side of his return
projection, he’s going to need some top medical care, some
hard work and some luck. At least one of those may have been
answered already, as one of his doctors told him that his eye is
healing so well, it’s as if he has a guardian angel. Far from
taking a miracle, Bisping plans to meet his future head on, buoyed
by the scare that could have cost him his vision or his career.
“In some ways, this is going to be best thing to happen to me,”
he said. “I know it sounds like a cliche, but I had my career
almost taken away, and it made me realize how much I still have
left to achieve in this sport. If time was called on my career
right now, I wouldn’t be happy with what I achieved. Yes, I get
some notoriety and put some dollars in my bank account and
whatever, but I want a lot more out of it than that. I want to
stabilize my future and my children’s future as well. So this has
really made me even hungrier than ever.”