Michael Bisping sits on a couch in a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto, his home away from home the last five weeks. It remains his home for another three as he finishes filming Vin Diesel’s "xXx 3: The Return of Xander Cage." The third installment of the "xXx" series is Bisping’s biggest cinematic opportunity by far, both in the massive movie budget and the core character he plays in the action flick.
"Everybody thinks I’m going to be some guy getting blown up in the background," Bisping tells Champions.co. "But I have a really, really good part. I play a key character, if you will. I don’t want to spoil the plot and get sued by the studio (laughs). But I certainly play a key role in the movie."
A key role in this feature is no small task considering Diesel, Tony Jaa and Samuel L. Jackson all star in the film. Bisping was even able to get his choreography ideas into some scenes. Not bad for a guy who just started acting in 2009.
The fourth-ranked UFC middleweight is no stranger to the spotlight. In 2006 he won season three of "The Ultimate Fighter," a reality show which aired on SpikeTV awarding fighters UFC contracts if they were successful. Bisping was undefeated at the time and made a name for himself both with his success inside the Octagon and his personality outside of it.
Bisping certainly isn’t the first athlete to try his hand at the movie business, but his agent, Mike Staudt, thinks he has the recipe for success.
"You have to have a marketability about you, and he’s always had that," he says. "He’s got the look, the right kind of personality. Aside from acting he’s always been good in front of a camera; that’s why he has a position commentating for Fox Sports and the UFC."
Staudt, who’s worked with other MMA athletes Georges St-Pierre, Conor McGregor, Gina Carano and boxer Victor Ortiz among others, continues, "You have to want it and you have to be able to put the work in and to study just the way you would if you were an athlete."
This is why the 37-year-old father of three is 2,500 miles away from his family in Southern California.
While Bisping has worked extensively with acting coaches and classes, his character for this role isn’t too big of a stretch.
"There are certainly similarities of course (between himself and his character) Ex-SAF (English Special Forces)," he says. "Now he’s kind of a rebel, if you will, but we’re actually fighting for the right reasons without saying too much. We’re rivals against Vin Diesel, but we’re all trying to archive the same thing. If that makes sense at all.”
The jovial Englishman found the humor in being a fighter in Hollywood’s world. Answering questions about his character’s backstory and scene motivation took some getting used to for a man more at home hitting mitts with his boxing coach than waxing poetic on character nuance.
So why does Bisping think he can succeed in an entirely new world?
“First and foremost, I’m not a moron," he explains. "I guess I’ve always had a natural flare for these kinds of things. I’ve always enjoyed it. Even from the first thing I ever did I just took to it naturally. Something I do [that] I very much enjoy. And you’ve got to have a talent for it. Just because you can throw a punch doesn’t mean you can deliver a line convincingly. Convince somebody you’re another character.”
The timing could be perfect. Or not.
Bisping is fresh off the biggest win of his career, defeating former pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva in February raising his stock higher than ever and within striking distance of a title shot. Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold rematches Chris Weidman at UFC 199 on June 4, with Bisping possibly facing the winner.
The aforementioned McGregor was tied to the same project but, according to Staudt, pulled out to keep his focus singularly on fighting. Bisping calls anyone questioning his ability to stay a top fighter and act at the same time “an absolute fool.” He trains regularly in Toronto and says he’ll be ready to go as early as July if the UFC offered him a fight.
Until then, Bisping is staying busy. He just finished filming his guest spot in the "Twin Peaks" remake, which was an unusual experience based on the secretive filming. The production company wouldn’t even email Bisping’s dialogue to him for fear of it leaking to the press. He had to be told his lines over the phone and write it down himself. All the concealment only adds to the appeal, saying “It’s a very quirky thing, 'Twin Peaks'. And this new one is no different.”
This could be the biggest time of Bisping’s life. "xXx 3" is set to release in January and a title shot is looming. But right now, he’s late to meet up with his striking coach in Toronto.
“Fighting is my bread and butter and will be for the foreseeable future," he says. "But you can’t fight forever. And who wouldn’t want to go from fighting into an acting career?”
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(Image via MMAWeekly.com)