The night I was almost murdered

The following abridged excerpt is from Michael Bisping’s autobiography “Quitters Never Win: My Life in UFC,” in which Bisping recalls the night he was almost murdered as a 17-year-old – if not for the would-be killer fumbling his plan.

(Editor’s note: It has not been altered from the original version; strong language is included.)


On a summer’s night in 1996, a man came to my apartment to kill me.

I’d moved out of the family home in April. I was seventeen, earning some money, and after growing up in a noisy house of eight, I couldn’t wait to have a place all to myself. I’d found a fully furnished apartment for 67 quid a week (about $85). It was well on the edge of town, right next to the woodlands and furnished with funky plastic furniture from the 1980s but, hey, 67 quid a week.

While everyone else who lived in Bawdlands (no “Street,” no “Lane,” just “Bawdlands”) entered their home via the main street, the only way in — or out — my apartment was via a back alley behind a greengrocer’s.

The back/front door opened into a vestibule. To the right was a slender, rectangular kitchen area which was separated from the living room by a very 80s-style door — clear glass held in a wooden frame. From the living room you could take the Mount Everest of steep staircases to the upstairs bathroom and bedroom.

Like any seventeen-year-old kid would, I thought the place was fantastic. I didn’t consider that entering via a dark alleyway could be in any way unsafe. I didn’t care how dark the yard outside my door was. I didn’t think about how low to the ground the bedroom window stood.

Why would it occur to me that having only one way in — one way out —could be so dangerous?

The unthinkable happened at 11:45 p.m. on a Saturday night in mid-July. I’d arrived home about twenty minutes before. I was a little drunk from that evening as well as hung over from the night before. Thank god I didn’t let the lads talk me into another late one. I collapsed on the old-fashioned PVC sofa and finished off the last few sips of a can of Foster’s I found in the fridge. I was exhausted from the two-day bender with my friends. I kicked off my shoes, socks and jeans and stretched out on the couch in front of a late-night movie.

I’ll have a doze here, I thought. Maybe when I wake up I’ll have the energy for the hike upstairs to bed.

I don’t think I fell asleep, but, if I did, it was for a minute tops. My eyes flickered open. I’d heard a noise. A faint tapping. I sat up and listened. I couldn’t hear anything. I started watching the movie again when . . .

Knock-knock, knock-knock-knock . . .

I definitely heard that! I was a little spooked. I was seventeen, living on my own for the first time. I got up and turned the TV down a bit. I waited a few minutes, listening. Then I heard it again.

Knock-knock, knock-knock-knock . . .

It was faint, it was intermittent, but there was definitely a knock-ing. It was creepy; loud enough for me to hear but only just about. Something wasn’t right.

It came again: Knock-knock, knock-knock-knock . . .

Fuck. Fuck!

It was coming from the kitchen. I skulked to the glass door to the kitchen and opened it, placing one hand on the pane to stop it from rattling in its frame. Something wasn’t right. I left the kitchen lights off and crept on my hands and knees towards the back door. It was pitch-black outside.

I waited, crouched there in the dark. I calmed down a little and almost felt silly when . . .

Knock-knock, knock-knock-knock . . .

I freaked the fuck out! I could hear my heartbeat in my chest. No doubt about it now — someone was outside my door. Someone was in the dark knocking on my door, remaining silent for long minutes and then knocking again.

“Who is it?” The words shot out of my mouth.

They were met with a stretch of silence. Then a muffled voice replied: “It’s Jon . . .”

Ron? Jon? I didn’t make it out.



I didn’t know a Jon. “Jon who?”

More silence. I stood up and switched the kitchen light on. The light made everything look normal and I relaxed a little.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“It’s me! It’s Jon!” This time the voice was assertive. Annoyed, almost. I unlocked the door and pulled it open, expecting to see the familiar face of a friend of a friend who I knew only by a nick-name.

There was no face. Only the glimpse of a large outline in the dark — and a hissssss.


I’d been sprayed in the face! My eyes were welded tight shut. I couldn’t open them. I stumbled into the kitchen. Snot exploded from my nose and my throat burned as I wrenched and coughed. I’d been CS-gassed in the face.

What the fuck is happening? I thought. I had to get my eyes open! Wait! Wha-what is all that splashing?

I stuck a finger and thumb into my eye and tore my left eyelid open. And I couldn’t believe what I saw. An intruder was standing inside the kitchen. He was over 6ft 3in, decked in black. Black boots, black combats, black bomber jacket, and what I can best describe as a black KKK hood. There were two holes for his eyes and one for his mouth.
The intruder was swinging a red can of gasoline everywhere. It was slapping against the walls and the kitchen counters and all over the floor.

Then he saw my eye was open and threw gas on me. It soaked my clothes. Terrified, I realized this intruder was here to hurt me. Maybe worse.

“AGGGH! STOP! STOP! WHO ARE YOU?” I screamed. The intruder said nothing. He shook the last drops of gas on the floor and placed the can by his feet. Looking directly at me, he took out a box of matches from a pocket. He struck one against the box. Too hard, it snapped. He struck another; it snapped. As he went for a third, I scrambled—half-blind—deeper into the house. I flipped another light on and reached the landline phone just inside the living room. I dialed 999 (British version of 911) without taking my eyes off the doorway to the kitchen.

“Emergency Services —”

“Help! Please send police! There’s someone in my house trying to kill me.”

The calm female voice on the line told me to calm down. The voice asked if I required police, ambulance, or fire department.

“Please send someone!”

“Sir, I understand you are —”

I’d stopped listening. The intruder was standing near the doorway, looking right at me. He was huge. The look in his eyes . . .

“He’s here right now!” I screamed into the handset.

A coat-hanger smile stretched behind the intruder’s hood. He was six paces from me. He still hadn’t uttered a word. He was absolutely motionless. He was just watching, watching me on the phone.

“Sir, it is important that you —”

I slammed my finger down to hang up on the emergency operator.

The smile tightened beneath the mouth hole. I could see teeth. I hit speed-dial.

It rang twice and then: “Hello?”

“Mate —it’s Mike! Call nine-nine-nine! Someone’s in my house! He’s trying to kill me! Please! Seriously! There’s a man here right now! Nine-nine-nine wouldn’t believe me! Call the police! Please! Now!”

The intruder jerked his head to one side. His thin lips crushed the smile gone. Has something surprised him? Slowly and deliberately he reached into his black jacket. He pulled out a lump hammer.

I leapt to the door and slammed it shut. I jammed my bare foot against the doorframe and pressed my entire weight against it. I dug in, pushing with all my strength. The masked intruder pressed his forehead against the glass. Our faces were less than a foot apart.

A smile stretched across the mouth hole again. Without moving his head off the glass, the intruder lifted the hammer up.

Clink, clink, clink . . .

He gently rapped the hammer on the glass.

Clink, clink, clink . . .

“Who the fuck are you?! What do you want?!”

More smiling.

Clink, clink, clink . . .

There was nowhere to run. There were no doors to lock behind me. What could I do? Who the fuck was this? In a split-second my mind raced over anyone — everyone — it could possibly be. It returned one name. The name of a thirty-something lout who I’d had several run-ins with. The town bully who, finally, I’d snapped on and decked with a punch earlier that month.


The intruder’s masked face startled back from the glass. The smile was gone.

“Bruno — is that you?”

He took a step back.

It was fucking Bruno!

“YOU FUAGH —” I couldn’t shout. My throat was a cube and my lips had curled back.

White-hot anger flushed out the panic and terror in an instant. This was no practiced killer, no horror-movie mad-man. He was just a bloke. Just a bloke named “Bruno” who’d picked— and lost —a fight with me outside a pub a few weekends before.

I swung the door open ready for the fight of my life. The hammer arced just inches away from my head. I felt the draft on my neck hair. He turned and ran outside. Barefoot, wearing only boxers and a T-shirt doused in gas, I chased. I was across the backyard, down the alley; I hurtled around the corner into the street.

Black boots thumped down on the sidewalk down Bawdlands. He skittled a family saying goodbye to visitors about to get into a car. It’s crazy, but I apologized for my would-be immolator’s poor manners (“Sorry! Sorry! Excuse us!”).

But I couldn’t keep up with him. My adrenaline was burned to fumes and the soles of my feet were already red raw. The man in the black hood was now at the end of the road. Without glancing back, he turned the corner and disappeared.

My friend arrived first. The cold and the adrenaline dump had me shivering, but I didn’t want to go back inside my apartment. We went back to his place and called the police again from his phone.

“It was Bruno!” I told the police as two cars of them pulled up. “It was (I gave his real name)! Lives on (I gave the street he lived on)! Calls himself Bruno! I said his name and he stopped. As soon as I said, ‘Bruno!’ he ran off. It was him! Fucking arrest him!”

The cops radioed that information to their colleagues and continued to take my statement in between me washing my eyes out with cold water. My eyes stung but I didn’t need to go to the hospital.

The police told me that crime scene experts had looked over my apartment. They confirmed gasoline had been thrown everywhere — and that they’d found something chilling.

My attacker had been inside my home earlier in the day.

“There’s evidence of forced entry through the bedroom window,” the officer said. “And your doorbell wire was cut.”

“My doorbell?”

“It appears the assailant thought he was cutting your phone wire.”

I swallowed hard. That explained him standing there smirking when I was on the phone — he thought the line was dead and was getting off on me trying to use a phone he’d taken out of commission. That puzzled look, the tilt of the head, when I phoned my friend — that’s when he realized he’d messed up and the phone was working.

Even the quiet knocking at the door — he’d probably tried the doorbell as soon as I got home.

He’d been waiting for me. He’d planned it all so I was blinded in a house set on fire and unable to call for help.

But it wasn’t Bruno. The police were at Bruno’s house — miles across town— within minutes of me giving them his name. They found Bruno asleep in bed; his roommate said they’d both been in all evening.

“There’s no way he could have gotten from Bawdlands to his house in such a small window of time,” the cops pointed out.

“So why’d he run, then?” I gasped. “Why’d he run when I said the name ‘Bruno?’”

The cops didn’t know but put forward a theory.

“Things were going wrong for him,” one of them pointed out. “The doorbell was cut, so he’d spent a long time trying to get you to answer the door. Every time he knocked, he risked being spotted by a neighbor looking out a window or setting a dog off.

“He hadn’t been able to blind you for long. Then the matches didn’t light. He’d gone to a lot of trouble to cut the phone line while you were out, but he’d messed that up and you’d alerted Emergency Services and your friend. He knew assistance was on the way. His plan was falling apart. You misidentifying him offered him a way out — someone else would get the blame — and he took it.”

I never stepped foot in that apartment again by myself. My friends came with me the next day to collect my stuff. You’d think a masked man trying to murder a seventeen-year-old by burning him alive would be worth a follow-up, especially in a small town in the north of England where there’s not much crime, but the police didn’t contact me about the incident again.

I still get chills when talking about what happened — what could have happened — that night. But I never had nightmares or anything like that. I moved back in with my mom for a while, but moved back out as soon as I found another place I could afford.

I’m not a psychologist, but if I were to guess why something like that didn’t affect me more I’d say it was because I got some measure of closure.

A month after the knocks on the door, I got word who the masked man was. It was credible. The guy in question — we’ll call him Ronnie — was a well-known psychopath around town who believed he had a reason to dislike me. Ronnie wasn’t just a local tough guy, he was a violent criminal.

Literally the night I was given Ronnie’s name, I spotted him in a pub. He was the right height and bulk. I walked towards him.

“Alright, Jon?” He turned around. He recognized me, but I couldn’t read anything else in his expression. “I said, are you alright, Jon?”

“My name’s Ronnie,” he said. He kept his teeth behind his lips. But I was almost positive, just from the eyes…

“I know your name is Ronnie. But you say it’s Jon some nights, don’t you, Jon?”

We looked at each other for a few seconds. I was ready to go…

“You’re nuts,” he said at last. He turned around and continued talking to his mates, but as I walked away I could feel his eyes darting back towards me.

That was twenty-five years ago. I’ve thought about that night a lot. I’m not 100 percent sure that Ronnie was the man who broke into my house looking to do me harm. Maybe 85 percent.

The other reason I don’t think the incident affected me that much is that I chased him away. He came to my home in the middle of the night with a plan, the element of surprise, CS gas, a can of gas, matches and a lump hammer. But it was him who ran away — not me.

Now you understand why I rolled my eyes whenever internet trolls accused me of being “afraid” of any fighter in the UFC. I haven’t been afraid of any man since I was seventeen years old.


“Quitters Never Win: My Life in UFC” by Michael Bisping with Ant Evans is out now in the U.S. and can be purchased from Amazon. The U.S. edition of the U.K. best seller is fully updated and includes an exclusive new chapter covering Bisping’s retirement, Hall of Fame induction, acting career, and his harrowing escape from would-be kidnappers in South Africa.

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