UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping returned to his old gym in Burnley to film part of his star-studded documentary ‘Built for This: The Michael Bisping Story’.
The 40-year-old, who grew up in Clitheroe, was taken under coach Allan Clarkin’s wing as a teenager, fighting out of Black Knights Martial Arts at Pentridge Mill in Holmes Street.
The documentary, set for release in early 2020, features the likes of Vin Diesel, Mickey Rourke, Noel Clarke, Georges St-Pierre, Dana White and many others, including 67-year-old Clarkin.
The pair reminisced about their chance meeting at a competition at the George H Carnall Sports Centre in Urmston, Manchester, in the mid ‘90s, a moment which ultimately shaped Bisping’s future.
“I was sat waiting for one of my lads to compete,” recalled Clarkin, who opened the gym in 1982. “I got speaking to Michael, just asking where he was from, and I ended up suggesting that the light contact format of kickboxing wasn’t for him.
“He needed to turn to the full contact sport. I gave him my contact details and his dad [Jan Konrad] ended up getting in touch and bringing him over to train.”
The former middleweight champion, who made history in 2016 when becoming king of the world with a first round victory over adversary Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 in Inglewood, California, perfected his art over three years at Clarkin’s base camp before beginning his ascent.
“He trained with me about three times a week,” said Clarkin. “He would sometimes come over on the bus from Clitheroe.
“I remember him being a big lad, he was aggressive and had that determination to be a winner. He had a basic foundation of striking skills and we had to work hard on his endurance, something which is crucial when competing.
“But it was his determination that stood out the most. We travelled all over the country in Full Contact Kickboxing and he ended up winning three different British pro rules titles.”
Bisping was renowned for being outspoken when switching from Cage Warriors to the UFC, but Clarkin knew the former Cage Rage champion was able to back up the bravado.
The Ultimate Fighter 3 Light Heavyweight tournament winner was able to talk the talk and walk the walk from the very beginning.
“I’ll always remember his first fight,” said the Black Knights coach. “At the end of the round he came over and asked me if he was allowed to kick his opponent out of the ring. He did it.
“He certainly left his mark on me after that. I also remember in another contest at the old Thompson Centre, he ran straight over to his opponent in the corner and knocked him out within seconds.”
The ‘Count’, who had visited with a film crew from Canada, became the first British fighter to win a UFC Championship and, after a tumultuous decade-long career filled with injuries and missed opportunities, he went on to defend his belt when triumphing unanimously against Dan Henderson at UFC 204 in Manchester.
Bisping, who has 20 career UFC wins, tied for the second most in history, became the fifth fighter to join the Modern Wing of the Hall of Fame alongside Ronda Rousey, Urijah Faber, B.J. Penn and Forrest Griffin.
“He always had that determination to become a big name,” Clarkin continued. “He had a fantastic attitude as well.
“We’ve sat and watched his career on TV, we’ve shared in the disappointment of his defeats, but we jumped out of our chairs when he became the champion.
“He’ll be remembered in the UFC forever now.
“It was really good to see him again, we had a really good chat, and the lads were chuffed to meet him. He’s a working class hero who has shown that you can achieve your goals with hard work. It was a special day.
“I’m extremely proud to have been a small part of his journey to the UFC Hall of Fame, I’m proud of what we did for him.
“He showed a great deal of gratitude.
“It’s a massive honour to be a part of this documentary and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.”
Bisping officially retired in December due to an eye injury, closing his career on the back of defeats to GSP at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where he conceded his crown, and then Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai.
He owns victories over the likes of Henderson, Anderson Silva, Rockhold, Cung Le, Brian Stann and Chris Leben in 11 years under the UFC umbrella.
Clarkin, whose club has competed at the highest level of kickboxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling and Sambo, all over the globe, would also like to thank Ryan Marsden, Jimmy Saddique, Adam Brennan, Chris Egerton-Jones, Matthew Thornber and Stuart Gervais for their help on the day.