SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Michael Bisping of Great Britain speaks to Jorge Rivera of the USA after winning their middleweight bout part of at UFC 127 at Acer Arena on February 27, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
An intentional knee to a grounded Jorge Rivera and an aggressive post-fight celebration filled with classlessness and malevolence is all it took for Michael Bisping to become the most hated man in mixed martial arts. After months of pre-fight trash talk that Rivera admittedly used to hype the showdown with "The Count", an emotionally hurt Michael Bisping drove home the point that he wasn't pleased with fabricated hate. Both men fired words back and forth in interviews and conference calls in the weeks leading up to the event, but the weigh-in staredown provided the perfect platform to show the animosity that had built up in Bisping's veins, culminating in a shoving contest that climaxed with the use of homophobic slurs. Michael Bisping hated Jorge Rivera, and he made damn sure that Rivera knew it.
To most fans, Chael Sonnen is the sport's ultimate heel. After a relatively uneventful career of grinding out opponents and failing to defeat upper-echelon fighters in his weight class, Sonnen vaulted himself into the limelight by smearing Anderson Silva's status as the best middleweight fighter in the world while also putting on career-defining performances against Yushin Okami and Nathan Marquardt.
Has Michael Bisping surpassed Chael Sonnen as the sport's ultimate heel? Bisping isn't spraying arrogance around the cage like Rick "The Model" Martel or shoving an Adonis-like physique in the faces of fans like "Ravishing" Rick Rude, but he is most certainly the sport's most hated figure. The intrigue, however, is that Bisping hasn't fabricated any of the moments in his career that have defined him as a heel. He's simply responded emotionally to the situations poorly.
That idea is where Bisping separates himself from the pack of wannabes. Bisping truly hates Jorge Rivera for everything he did in the lead-up to the fight. He wasn't playing a role in which he took jabs and delivered his own in the media. He didn't take the high road and thoughtfully plan out responses. He responded to the attacks as most of the demographic would have during their days in high school. Hastily and without thinking.
In a strange way, it has resonated with some fans. There is plenty of evidence in the comments of our own site and others that defends his responses, and that has created a dichotomy among fans along with added interest in watching Michael Bisping either succeed or fail. Not only does he have nearly every fan in the sport against him, but he has his own small legion of defenders fueling more fire. All of it benefits Michael Bisping's career as a draw, similarly to the hatred for Brock Lesnar.
As for his character, it may not help him long-term as the sport tries to shed its level of unprofessionalism, but it's difficult to discount the parallel with wrestling's model of using the heel to sell tickets and pay-per-views. People will want to see Bisping lose, but I have a feeling the UFC will hope to capitalize on Bisping's newfound status as the sport's ultimate heel.