How Michael Bisping inspired MMA fighters in the U.K.

Michael Bisping leaves a strong legacy behind him for MMA fighters in the UK to follow. Chris Brunskill/Zuffa LLC

Michael Bisping retired from MMA this week and leaves behind a list of accomplishments which includes winning "The Ultimate Fighter" as well as the UFC middleweight championship. He was the first -- and to date only -- Brit to ever do so.

Bisping's retirement announcement affected the entire MMA community and the outpouring of respect and admiration from fans, fighters, colleagues and the media has been well deserved, but particularly in the UK.

He became a localised figurehead, a leading point of reference for British fans and aspiring MMA fighters, and it is not a stretch to say that, without him, there would have been fewer opportunities for fighters and fewer UFC events laid on for UK fans over the past decade.

ESPN spoke to British fighters past and present to assess the impact Bisping had on them and the sport in the UK.

Michael Bisping... as an inspiration

UFC welterweight Darren Till: "I remember watching him on The Ultimate Fighter and I was a baby. I'm twenty-five now. For him to be around for all that time and actually get the title just shows how mentally and physically hard-working he is. I can take inspiration from stuff like that to know that, no matter what happens along the road, he didn't give up, did he? Look at the man now. Even me, I try not to let anyone inspire me, you can't do anything but take inspiration from his story."

UFC bantamweight Nathaniel Wood: "He was one of the first main guys from the UK to make waves in the UFC, and is a hardworking dedicated athlete. He's a guy young athletes can look up to and learn from."

Retired UFC fighter Brad Picket: "He really helped put the sport on the map, not just in the UK, but also around the world. The sport owes a lot of credit to him."

Bellator light heavyweight Liam McGeary: "He was the first to show that an Englishman can make it in the fight game over in the States, he definitely inspired a generation of fighters to get up and 'go for it!' Most definitely, it inspired me to come over [to the US] and fight!"

UFC middleweight Tom Breese: "I've been a big supporter of Michael Bisping since I first saw him on the Ultimate Fighter. Being a young British lad that was a big fan of the sport, it was great to see a British fighter have so much success at the highest level of the fight game. It's been great to watch his career and even fight on the same cards as him a few times."

UFC bantamweight Brett Johns: "I was very young when I was interested in the MMA and I was following one of my closest mates, who fought on the same shows as Michael. He was a character back in those Cage Warriors days. He was a big influence on my MMA career growing up, and when it comes to highs and lows in the sport, Michael has been through the lot, and still fought through."

UFC middleweight Brad Scott: "Bisping was already established in his career before I even knew what mixed martial arts was. To then go on and win the middleweight title by knocking out Luke Rockhold is the biggest achievement of any British fighter. When he was on the local circuit, when I first started, before he was on The Ultimate Fighter, he literally wiped the floor with everyone. He was destroying the circuit, he was subbing people, knocking people out and then went on to win The Ultimate Fighter and that was super impressive."

UFC welterweight, analyst and commentator Dan Hardy: "I know a lot of guys that found confidence in Michael's success to commit fully to their own career, having seen that UFC fame was possible for a British fighter. A few British fighters came before him, but the consistency of Bisping's success, and the longevity of his UFC career is what sets him apart."

Bamma middleweight Fabian Edwards: "He showed that the UK had talent and represented the UK to the fullest. He achieved so many things throughout his career which motivated me as well as many others."

Michael Bisping... as a person

Bellator welterweight Paul Daley: "Mike is a great guy, great fighter, who's persevered and stayed very genuine all the way to the top. I trained with Mike while he was on the UK circuit, and it's great I can say that. He's genuine."

Bellator welterweight Michael Page: "He inspires us all to never lose sight of what you want and never stop fighting for it until you get it."

UFC featherweight Arnold Allen: "He came back from some devastating losses and it never knocked him off his path. He always came back, got back on the grind and got back to winning ways. When people doubted him, he proved them wrong."

Brett Johns: "As a professional athlete in the UFC it's helped me to realise that no matter how bad times get in this game, consistency is the key. Michael taught me that."

Bellator light heavyweight Linton Vassell: "I remember watching him on The Ultimate Fighter, fighting Rashad Evans, who is now my team-mate. He said what was on his mind and didn't care. He definitely put on a show and always came to fight. He always had that never-give-up mindset. He had a gas tank for days. He beat the world's best."

Dan Hardy: "He showed tremendous character with his persistence in pursuit of the title. Plenty of times he was counted out, doubted, and underestimated, but his courage and determination made up for any physical or technical attributes that he was lacking."

Michael Bisping... as the first Brit to be a UFC champion

Darren Till: "As much as any of us British fighters wanted to be the first UFC champion, I don't feel like there was a more deserving person than Bisping because of what he's done."

Michael Page: "He's someone that has worked hard, put in the hours and because of that achieved what most said he would never achieve and won the middleweight world title in the UFC."

Arnold Allen: "His place in history will be cemented forever. He was a Cage Rage champion, a Cage Warriors champion, and a UFC champion."

Bellator lightweight Aaron Chalmers: "Nobody ever thought he would become a champion after the false starts yet he rose to the top of the tree and fought the GOAT, Georges St-Pierre. He's shown that even from the U.K. you can mix it at the top and now he is set for life."

UFC lightweight Marc Diakiese: "Being the first Brit to not only fight in a main event but to also win the title, I aspire to get where he's got to, to accomplish the things he has. I've watched him fight at a high level for many years, you can see great courage each and every time he stepped into the octagon. Being the underdog in fights against greats such as Anderson Silva or Dan Henderson, coming out victorious, fighting until the very end. Fearing no-one and nothing, he showed so much heart, discipline and confidence."

UFC flyweight Joanne Calderwood: "He proved that you should never give up. It took him 10 years to get the championship belt and he really did earn it through hardships. He has had some tough times with injuries and losses but he always fought back, being a warrior in and out of the Octagon. He will always be known as a true fighter."

Michael Bisping... for the Hall of Fame?

Darren Till: "He can retire and not have to worry financially. He's going to go into the hall of fame of the UFC. He's done it all."

Linton Vassell: "He fought everyone in his time that he was fighting. He won some and lost some but that's all part of the package. He ended up becoming the middleweight champion, probably something a lot of people thought he would never achieve, but he did it. He shut all those haters and doubters up. For me, he will definitely go down in the Hall of Fame."

Brad Scott: "He was the biggest guy representing Britain in the sport. I think he's underrated, too. He's what I would call a legend."

UFC bantamweight Davey Grant: "He always came to fight like a true warrior and he has done more than enough to solidify his admission into the Hall of Fame."

Dan Hardy: "His legacy is, and always will be a foundation of U.K. MMA, and his place in the UFC Hall of Fame is without question."