Bisping, Joshua, Tyson: 10 fighters who fought back from massive knockouts

  • Tom Ward
Fighters who came back from devastating stoppage defeats

Quitters never win. That is the mantra Michael Bisping lives by, swears by and abides by, and it is also the name of his bestselling autobiography. 

A veteran of over 50 fights, Bisping is perhaps best known for his hugely popular stint on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and his title-winning run in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). 

But the larger-than-life character also had a number of different setbacks along the way that helped to shape him into the man that he is today.

There were times in his career when he could have thrown the towel in, but he didn’t. There were times in his career where lesser men and women would’ve called it a day, but he didn’t.

It is that bravery which separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls, a steely determination matched only by a few who dare to risk their lives all in the name of sport and entertainment.

But as Bisping knows only too well, MMA can be a cruel sport. Too often, the old warhorse found himself on the cusp of a world title shot, only to lose in the most dramatic of circumstances, such as when he was hit by a ‘H-Bomb’ from Dan Henderson at Mandalay Bay in 2009. 

Michael Bisping – former UFC middleweight champion

During a recent appearance on The High Performance Podcast, ‘The Count’ recalled that fateful night, in a way that only he could:

“I certainly had very tough mental resolve over the years. I had to, you know, with all the ups and downs that I had, I just never stopped believing in myself. Obviously when I got involved with mixed martial arts and then I got to the UFC and I was doing well.

“Everybody wants to be the champion of the world, and I got to number one contender matchups several times and I lost those fights, but I never gave up hope.

Michael Bisping faces off against Dan Henderson

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“But there was a few times I got knocked out and I remember there was one – UFC 100 it was – and it was the biggest pay-per-view of all time at that time and I got knocked out in the most horrendous fashion. 

“The guy hit me with an overhand right, I went down, I was already unconscious and the guy leapt through the air. There’s images of it if you Google ‘UFC 100’ and my name, he’s like airborne and he lands with his forearm on me.

“Everyone said he’s done, he’s done, he will never ever come back from a knockout like that, and history has shown us time and time again when a fighter gets knocked out like that, they can’t come back from that.

A bloodied Michael Bisping gazes into the distance

“I remember actually my next fight was at the MEN, and I wasn’t the main event because I’d just been knocked out, I was a little further down the card, and all these journalists, they would always kind of try and bother me for my time and things like that.

“I remember I was in the locker room, I was getting wrapped up, and this journalist that used to always speak to me walked in, and I turned around, I thought he was going to chat to me, and he just went right past me, didn’t even give me the time of day, and that really p—– me off.

“But that anger, that feeling disrespected, that drove me, because I wanted to prove everybody wrong, everyone thought I was finished.

Michael Bisping celebrates winning

“And as I said, that wasn’t the only time, there were three of four times throughout my career I got to the number one contender matchups, and that’s a great position to get to, I got myself to fight a title eliminator.

“But I did that several times and every time I failed, I failed at those hurdles, and everyone said it was never going to happen, but I never gave up, I always believed in myself.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Seven years later Bisping beat Luke Rockhold to become Britain’s first UFC champion, in a bout many had given him practically no chance of winning. He famously took the fight on just two weeks’ notice notice while filming with Vin Diesel in Toronto. 

Here are some other famous examples of fighters who fought back after being stopped: 

Mike Tyson – the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history

Mike Tyson knocks out Donovan Ruddock

What better place to start than perhaps the most famous one of them all? In 1990, ‘Iron Mike’ Tyson was knocked out by underdog Buster Douglas. It remains to this day one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. 

While Tyson’s reputation was never quite the same after that shock defeat, between 1990 and 1996 he had beaten Frank Bruno, Donovan Ruddock and Bruce Seldon. The combined records of those three fighters at the time Tyson faced them was 98-9-1. 

Lennox Lewis – former undisputed heavyweight champion 

In April 2001, Lennox Lewis was the unified and defending heavyweight champion when he suffered the second loss of his career to Hasim Rahman by knockout in South Africa.

In a rematch fought a few months later, Lewis put it right this time, again by knockout. Lewis stayed active for two more years before retiring in 2004.

Georges St-Pierre – former two-division UFC champion 

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In 2007, Georges St-Pierre lost his welterweight title to Matt Serra. If his early loss to Matt Hughes was understandable, the loss to Serra was less so. 

Perhaps tellingly, St-Pierre would never lose another fight again for the rest of his career, so it all worked out rather well in the end. 

Anthony Joshua – two-time world heavyweight champion 

Cast your minds back to 2019 and Anthony Joshua was an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Fresh off the back of a resounding victory over Alexander Povetkin, the Matchroom PR machine was in full swing. There was even talk of a potential super-fight against Tyson Fury.

But all of that vanished in a puff of smoke when Andy Ruiz Jr shocked the world by knocking out Joshua in front of a travelling contingent of 2,500-odd British fans at Madison Square Garden in New York. A national hero one week, a laughing stock the next.

David Haye – former two-weight world champion 

David Haye poses with Joe Fournier and Ryan Kavanaugh

David Haye‘s world title ambitions were almost over before they had even truly begun. By the end of 2003, Haye had already compiled an impressive professional record. ‘The Hayemaker’ was 8-0 with 7 KOs.

But after beating Arthur Williams in 2004, Haye’s career came unstuck. In that same year, he lost to Carl Thompson, a veteran of 39 fights.

While Thompson couldn’t quite land the knockout blow, the consequences were just as devastating as if it had been. Haye was completely written off almost immediately, his hopes of becoming a world champion seemingly lying in tatters. 

Stipe Miocic – former UFC heavyweight champion 

Arguably the best heavyweight of all time, Stipe Miocic regained the gold-plated strap with a stunning fourth-round knockout of Daniel Cormier at UFC 241 in August 2019. What made it even more impressive was that Cormier had been the last man to beat him the year before at UFC 226 in Las Vegas. 

Rose Namajunas – current UFC strawweight champion 

Rose Namajunas celebrates after beating Weili Zhang

Despite being unceremoniously dumped on her head by Jessica Andrade, ‘Thug’ Rose got that one back via a split decision and in April of this year, almost a year after her most recent setback, she captured the strawweight title from Weili Zhang

George Foreman – two-time world heavyweight champion

Few could have predicted that Foreman would make a dramatic comeback 13 years after suffering his first career defeat to Muhammad Ali in the iconic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974. Fewer still would have predicted that he would end up fighting well into his forties. 

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Joe Louis – former world heavyweight champion

The former world heavyweight champion is most fondly remembered for his historic rematch with German boxer Max Schmeling in 1938, a battle set against the backdrop of World War II.

Louis had lost their previous encounter via a twelfth-round knockout but ultimately prevailed against the odds to emerge victorious on the night.

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