Michael 'The Count' Bisping is Britain's most decorated mixed martial artist. He fights in the UFC as one of the top middleweight contenders. Bisping brings Wide World of Sports a view from inside the octagon.
I touched on this subject a little bit last week, but today I'd like to fully explore who set up the 'I Hate Michael Bisping' fan club and why. It seems that whenever I fight anywhere but in England, I'm watched by thousands of fans praying I get my butt kicked in the most humiliating fashion possible.
I've had to face up to this scenario most of the time I've fought in the US and also experienced it last February in Australia at UFC 110.
As everybody will know by now, I'm set to return to Australia on February 27 to face Jorge Rivera at UFC 127 and, to be honest, I'm expecting the same kind of abuse I faced last year. So, with that in mind, I'm trying to figure out why.
For starters, I'd just like reassure everybody that the reaction of the crowd never affects the way I prepare for a fight or the way I fight. For all those fans that may be attempting to unsettle or fluster me by shouting abuse, give your voice box a rest because it won't work. I can guarantee you that. I'm great at blanking it all out and just focusing on the task at hand. You can't get caught up emotionally in things like that, otherwise you'll just go crazy and your head will be a mess of mixed signals and negative thoughts.
Actually, the only time the crowd affects me is when I fight at home in England. When I fight in England, I know the place is going to go absolutely nuts when I enter the octagon. So, in that instance, the crowd affects me in a good way. I get a buzz off the energy of the crowd and raise my game to the next level. When I fight in the US or Australia and get heavily booed, it's a different kind of atmosphere, but I love it all the same.
Obviously I'd prefer it if everybody liked and respected me, but I also realise that won't always be the case. You've got to take your lumps in this sport, both inside and outside the octagon. I know that not everybody will like me or want me to win. I don't mind being booed and having to play the bad guy. To be honest, I quite like the idea of proving the majority wrong and sticking it to them with a big victory.
I get to experience the best of both worlds in my career. I'm a hero whenever I fight in the UK and I'm a villain everywhere else I go. I'm Chuck Liddell one fight and Josh Koscheck the next! I get to experience the full range of emotions and, at least, I get a passionate reaction either way so at least I know no-one is going to take a hot dog break when I fight.
I love my British supporters. I feel weird using the word "fans" because I'm not a rock star or anything, I'm just a bloke from the north of England who has a talent and has been lucky enough to use that talent to make a living. I never, ever take my support for granted and I know I owe the British fans a lot.
It's actually humbling to have kids and parents wait hours just to get a photo with you. You try and be as friendly as you can be and pray it was worth their time to meet you.
The reasons for the abuse outside the UK are still confusing to me, though. I live in a tiny little town in the north-west of England and yet I generate this huge amount of ill-feeling outside Great Britain. It's pretty strange, when you think about it.
I don't laud it up or show off around my hometown and I don't cause trouble anywhere. I don't crash Ferraris, cause fights in nightclubs, throw money around like Floyd Mayweather, I don't attend all the UFC events and the after-parties and make big demands. I've had three Fights of the Nights so I'm giving the fans entertainment and am not boring in the octagon.
There are fighters out there bringing this sport into disrepute with their actions, but they are seen as legends and heroes and get cheered wherever they go. There are fighters who throw cheap shots after the fight, who are steroid cheats, refuse to fight this opponent or that opponent, or make stupid contract demands. The only crime I've ever committed was believing in my ability and having confidence that I'd win a fight.
In Australia and I know because my partner and mother of my three kids is Australian I know you guys have this "tall poppy syndrome" and I get that. I think Aussies have a very similar sense of humour to the English, but at same time they don't like people who brag about themselves. I'm confident in my ability, I believe in myself and the improvements I am making, and that's different to being a big-head.
Next week I'll investigate exactly what Jorge Rivera's problem with me is and explain to you all how I intend to go about dealing with it.
UFC 127 takes place on Sunday, February 27, 2011.
For more on Michael Bisping, visit www.bisping.tv