We continued to say it over the past couple years -- even as he held the UFC middleweight title hostage, and stalled an entire division for his own benefit...
We sure are gonna miss Michael Bisping when he's gone.
That day finally arrived on Monday, when Bisping, 39, announced his retirement from mixed martial arts. There had been chatter in recent months about one last "retirement fight" in 2018, but common sense ultimately prevailed.
The allure of one more paycheck can be difficult to walk away from, and it would have been nice to hear Bisping say his goodbyes from the Octagon itself, but he's logged more than six hours of total fight time in that cage. That's probably enough.
Exactly what will we miss about Bisping? Now, that's a fun question to answer. And the best answer might not be the most obvious one.
Of course, the sport will miss his ability to make us care about his fights. He's been highly ranked at middleweight for nearly a decade now, so his fights always mattered from the standpoint of establishing a pecking order. But ranked fights take place every weekend these days, and that alone isn't enough to draw a crowd.
But Bisping had a way of making every fight personal. Occasionally, he took it much too far (an anti-gay slur at Luke Rockhold, spitting in the direction of Jorge Rivera's corner after knocking him out). And occasionally it felt a little silly and contrived (last year's 'reality TV' confrontations with Georges St-Pierre).
The majority of the time though, Bisping hit his mark.
And for a long time, Bisping's ability to sell a narrative overshadowed who he really was behind the scenes: A genuinely well-liked, highly respected martial artist.
Ironically, the one word that may best describe Bisping is actually a pretty dull one: competitor.
He ran side-by-side the great Anderson Silva for years without getting a shot at a UFC title. Between 2009 and 2013, he reached the cusp of title contention several times, but suffered four critical losses. All four of those opponents either were later suspended for performance-enhancing drugs or were users of the controversial testosterone replacement therapy, which is now banned by the UFC. Bisping was very aware of that, but never blamed his shortcomings on it.
In 2014, he dropped a one-sided fight to Rockhold in Australia, and it sure looked like that was it for his title aspirations. Nobody would have guessed Bisping had a title run in him at age 35, which made it even more sweet when he defeated Rockhold to claim the middleweight title in 2016.
Bisping won a UFC championship well after the rest of us decided he'd never get a chance to even fight for one. And it was that same competitive drive and self-belief that led him to accept an ill-advised, short-notice fight against Kelvin Gastelum last November, which proved to be the final bout of his career.
Bisping was a fantastic promoter and reality TV star. He carried the torch for the UFC in his native U.K., as well as other international markets. He was good for the sport.
And at the end of the day, he was a tough-as-nails competitor, which is the greatest thing we'll miss about him.