Bisping recalls long run to title contention

Should Michael Bisping earn his long-awaited title shot this weekend with a win over Vitor Belfort in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he wouldn't just be the most deserving middleweight to fight Anderson Silva.

In his eyes, he would be the most deserving title contender the UFC has ever had.

"One million percent," Bisping told ESPN.com. "I've been here for seven years fighting the best consistently, and I've never had a title shot. Yeah, I'd say I'm by far the most deserving and I'm the most complete fighter Anderson has ever fought."

Agree or disagree, you can at least see his point.

Saturday will mark Bisping's 18th appearance in the Octagon, where he has compiled a lifetime 13-4 record. Only two men, Chris Lytle and Chris Leben, have ever fought more and never received a title shot.

During that time, Silva has fought some (to put it nicely) questionable competition according to Bisping. "Here's a good one: Patrick Cote," Bisping said. The mere mention of the name Thales Leites evokes expletives.

As Bisping looks to finally cash in on his title shot opportunity, he took a walk down Memory Lane with ESPN.com to remember the ride here in his own words:

April 21, 2007. UFC 70: Second-round TKO over Elvis Sinosic

It was the first time I fought in Manchester and that was a dream come true. Elvis is a nice guy but I put a beating on him. In the first round, I went out and ground and pounded him pretty hard and at the end of the round, I got up and was in my corner and he didn't even get off the floor. His corner was attending to him as he was lying on the floor where I'd left him and I was thinking, "Really? This fight looks like it should be over." Anyway, the referee started the fight again and he actually caught me with a knee and got me in a Kimura that nearly snapped my arm. I gutted it out, reversed the position and finished him in the second round.

Nov. 17, 2007. UFC 78: Split-decision loss to Rashad Evans

That was my first main event for the UFC. There was this huge billboard in Times Square in New York. It was weird, walking through Times Square and seeing that, being this guy from a small town in England. That was mind-blowing for me. The fight was very close. I thought I won but it was a coin toss -- it was really that close. After that fight I went to 185 and the reason I did was because the day of the weigh-ins, when everyone was cutting weight and Rashad was in a sauna probably cutting 10-to-15 pounds, I was in a Chinese restaurant eating noodles and drinking 7-Up. I knew I was perhaps a bit undersized for the light heavyweight division at that point and wasn't making the sacrifices I needed to be at the top.

April 19, 2008. UFC 83: First-round TKO over Charles McCarthy

I went from not cutting weight to cutting too much. I got far too skinny. I actually dieted all the way down to 185 pounds. I saw Eddie Bravo in the elevator the morning of the weigh-in. I had gone down to check my weight. It was about 7 a.m. and he asked, "How's the weight?" I said, "Oh, I'm right on it. I'm 186." I hadn't done anything to cut and he said, "My God, you could cut to welterweight." And I thought he was right. That fight, Charles McCarthy talked a good game and actually said he was going to break my arm because he was a submission expert. As it happened, I got him in a Thai clinch and kneed him 25 times consecutively and broke his arm. So, that was rather ironic.

July 11, 2009. UFC 100: Second-round KO loss to Dan Henderson

I knew that fight was coming for about nine months and I over-trained. I went into that fight massively over-trained, malnourished. When I look back on that now, I was so skinny I can't believe it. Up until that fight, I honestly thought I could go in there with anyone and never get knocked out because I had never really got hit in my career. I learned I was wrong the hard way. My boxing coach was screaming at me, "You're [circling] the wrong way!" People like to talk s--- and say, "Oh yeah Bisping, you went the wrong way," but Dan was actually doing a very good job of cutting the ring off so I couldn't go that way. So all these fairies on the Internet, if they knew what they were talking about they'd shut up for a second because Dan was cutting the ring off. He hit me on the jaw and knocked me out. It was a well-thrown punch and I give credit to him.

Feb. 20, 2010. UFC 110: Unanimous-decision loss to Wanderlei Silva

I think Wanderlei jumped on the bandwagon because I'd never met him and he was still going on and on about, "No one likes Michael Bisping." He was driving me crazy, to be honest. At the press conference he sounded like a moron. He was saying, "Yeah, I don't like him. I don't like him." And one of the press said, "Well, why don't you like him?" He didn't even have an answer. We hadn't even spoke and I was trying to be respectful because, you know, Wanderlei is a legend, but then he went down that road so I started to go fire with fire and talked back. I clearly dominated that fight. I hit him with a great right hand in the second round. It wobbled him. His eyes were dancing but whenever I hit him, the crowd wouldn't do anything. He'd throw a punch and miss me, and the crowd would go into fits. I think that swayed the judges. In my mind, that was a clear robbery.

Oct. 16, 2010. UFC 120: Unanimous-decision win over Yoshihiro Akiyama

It was just a great fight. What did he do … Oh, he said I kicked him in the balls in the round. He took a little nap. He took about 10 minutes lying on the floor. I thought he was going to go to sleep. I thought his corner might bring him a little pillow. He was on the verge of being stopped but he took a nap in Round 3 and recovered. In the first round, the first 10 seconds, he went boom and hit me with a real good right hand. It definitely wobbled me and I thought, "Oh, you bastard." I couldn't believe it. I gathered my senses and got myself on cruise control from there.

Feb. 27, 2011. UFC 127: Second-round TKO over Jorge Rivera

Jorge Rivera. I used to fight on a show called Cage Rage in London and Rivera fought there a couple times. We chatted a little and I don't know, I had respect for Jorge. Nothing against him. Then he was supposed to fight in Germany and his opponent pulled out so they told Jorge he was fighting me. I hadn't even heard it myself and he does this video in Germany saying, "Yeah, I want to hurt Bisping bad." I hadn't spoken to the guy in years, so that pissed me off. Then he and his team make absolute fools of themselves making those YouTube videos, talking about myself and making insinuations about my girlfriend. You've got to realize, you can't mock people on the Internet and expect nothing. If you go and make videos of me, if I get my hands on you, you're going to pay for it. He made a mistake, he pissed me right off and I went out there and gave him a good, old-fashioned a--whooping and we never heard from Jorge again.

Dec. 3, 2011. TUF 14 Finale: Third-round TKO over Jason Miller

Jason talked a good game on "The Ultimate Fighter" and several times he put his hands on me and my assistant coaches said, "Mike, you can't let Jason keep poking you like this on camera." What am I going to do? I've got three children at home. I'm a professional fighter. I'm not going to brawl with him. I actually had a real bad chest infection for that fight. I trained my a-- off and my cardio was good, but my lungs were on fire. Believe me. It took about an hour or two in the locker room until the pain went away.

Jan. 28, 2012. UFC on Fox 2: Unanimous-decision loss to Chael Sonnen

Had I won that fight, I would have been fighting for the title. There was no trash talk. Chael was cool. It was all business. The fight went well. First round was close, second round was close, third round was definitely his. Before they announced the decision, Chael said to me, "What do you think?" I said, "Honestly, I think I got the first two." He said, "I think you're right, buddy." They gave the fight to Chael. What can you say? Then he went and did his "Dancing With The Stars" impersonation and fell over. I certainly would have given Anderson Silva a better fight than what Chael did. Was it a robbery? No. Do I think I won the fight? Yes.