Bisping was introduced to most UFC fans during his stint on season three of Spike TV's hit The Ultimate Fighter, when he joined countryman Ross Pointon as one of the first two British fighters in the show's history. "The Count" made the most of his opportunity, following in the footsteps of fighters like Forrest Griffin, Kenny Florian, and Rashad Evans to emerge victorious from the talent-stacked early seasons of the show.
Although Bisping won the light-heavyweight title on The Ultimate Fighter and followed his performance up with consecutive TKO wins, many felt that his natural size made him more suited to fighting in a lighter weight class. After a close split decision win over Matt Hamill followed by an equally close split decision loss to Rashad Evans, Bisping decided to make the cut to middleweight.
Bisping started his middleweight run with three straight victories, and his success brought him near title contention in the division as well as landing him a job as a coach on season nine of The Ultimate Fighter.
The Ultimate Fighter followed a new format in season nine, pitting a US team against a UK team for the first time, and the show proved to be a mixed blessing for Bisping. While it undoubtedly garnered him a lot of exposure, it also brought him in for increasing criticism from fans who didn't like his brash attitude and seeming lack of respect for understated rival coach Dan Henderson. The nation vs. nation format of the show also created an ugly atmosphere of national rivalry among many fans, especially as a focused British team steadily dismantled the Americans and then swept the finals.
Of course, the final act of the show wouldn't be complete until Bisping met Henderson in a fight that was supposed to determine the next contender for the UFC middleweight title, a fight that would give Henderson a chance to reply to Bisping's words in the cage.
And what a reply he gave.
Henderson's resounding knockout of Bisping at UFC 100 left many wondering how "The Count" would bounce back, and led to predictions that his days as the face of British MMA had passed him by. But although some men would have been caught in a downward spiral following such a devastating loss, Bisping seemed to dig deep and use it as motivation to work his way back to the top.
Bisping returned to action at UFC 105 with a Fight of the Night performance that ended with a TKO of Dennis Kang, showing composure under pressure as he recovered from being rocked early in the fight. Next up was MMA legend Wanderlei Silva at UFC 110, and although Bisping would suffer a decision defeat to the man he had once looked up to as one of his heroes in the sport, he lost no time returning to action with a win over Dan Miller at UFC 114.
Now, with another Fight of the Night victory, this time against Akiyama at UFC 120, Bisping has moved within one win of a UFC title shot for the second time in his career.
A lot has changed in the year since Bisping last found himself in this position.
Fellow Brit Dan Hardy became the first fighter from the UK to try...