Former UFC champion in bare-knuckle fight at 15 years old
Former UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping had a long and winding career in combat sports. Born on a British military base in Nicosia on the isle of Cyprus, Bisping grew up and began his martial arts training at the age of 8 years in Manchester, England.
While training under lifelong martial artist Paul Lloyd Davies, Michael Bisping competed in his very first “no holds barred” competition for an organization called Knock Down Sport Budo, better known as KDSB.
The year was 1994 and Michael Bisping was just fifteen years old but unafraid to throw himself into the fire and test himself against a trained fighter who is trying to take his head off.
The fight takes place on an unenclosed mat. As the referee signals the beginning of the match, Bisping’s opponent, Gene Phillips, extends his hand to touch fists as a sign of good sportsmanship. The young Bisping is having none of it and immediately levels Phillips with a kick he wasn’t expecting and didn’t see coming.
From there, the fight continues on the ground. Despite taking one hell of a kick to begin the fight, Phillips hangs in there and doesn’t wilt. After a brief period of bizarre positioning in which Bisping’s face was buried in the side of Phillips’s midsection and had what appeared to be a tight scissors lock on Phillips’ head from his back, a scramble occurs which allows the fighters to return to their feet.
The standup battle doesn’t last long, as Phillips is able to take Bisping down, but Bisping is able to land on top and in mount. Bisping first tries to simply strangle his opponent hands-on-throat style. Then, Phillips turns over, all but giving his neck to Bisping, who easily secures a rear-naked choke.
Over 20 years later, Michael Bisping would go on to become UFC Middleweight Champion by knocking out Luke Rockhold at UFC 199.
Jeff Warsaw is the former executive editor of Long Island MMA Magazine, professional combat sports public address announcer for several NY/NJ MMA and kickboxing promotions, and a proud one-stripe white belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under the famed Joe D’Arce. He is currently a musician, coffee enthusiast, and host of the Stranger In A Strange Land podcast on YouTube.