Who was the first British UFC champion?

The history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) dates back to November 12, 1993, but it was not until nearly 23 years later, on June 4, 2016, that the franchise produced its first British champion. The fighter in question was Cyprus-born Englishman Michael Bisping who, in the main event at ‘UFC 199: Rockhold vs. Bisping 2’, at The Forum in Inglewood, California, knocked out Luke Rockhold with a heavy left-hand punch after 3:36 of the first round to become UFC Middleweight Champion.

Descended from Polish nobility, hence his nickname, ‘The Count’, Bisping sprang a major surprise on that occasion, insofar as he only accepted the fight at short notice, following the withdrawal of former champion Chris Weidman with a neck injury, and had lost, by second-round submission, to Rockford in their previous meeting, ‘UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Bisping’, 18 months previously.

Already a 10-year UFC veteran, Bisping defended his title just once, beating Dan Henderson by unanimous decision in the main event at ‘UFC 204: Bisping vs. Henderson 2’ at the Manchester Arena on October 8, 2016. Over a year later, on November 4, 2017, he lost his title to former welterweight champion George St. Pierre, by third-round technical submission, in the main event at ‘UFC 217: Bisping vs. St. Pierre’ at Madison Square Garden, New York. Just three weeks later, Bisping suffered a first-round knockout at the hands of Kelvin Gastelum at ‘UFC Fight Night 122’ at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai and, worse, suffered an eye injury, which ultimately led to his retirement from mixed martial arts (MMA) competition the following May.

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