Michael Bisping has been lobbying for a shot at UFC gold for the better part of the last six months. This past week, “The Count” tweaked his usual argument, combining Chris Weidman’s recent injury news with Anderson Silva’s pursuit of a super-fight with Georges St-Pierre as basis for suggesting his January fight against Vitor Belfort in Sao Paulo, Brazil be for an interim title.
As much as I applaud Bisping’s dogged determination when it comes to finding ways to put himself in a title fight, there is no need for the UFC to put another interim title into the mix. Even if they did, I’m not sure this would be the pairing that would be tabbed to battle for the belt.
First and foremost, Silva isn’t hurt. If he doesn’t defend the belt until late 2013, it’s out of choice and as a result of what the UFC believes is a much better option than a middleweight title fight. This isn’t a case of Silva being sidelined long-term with an injury, which is usually the most important criterion that needs to be met when the option of creating an interim title arises.
Should a super-fight between Silva and St-Pierre come together and be slated for May 2013 as Dana White has suggested, it will mean the welterweight title will have been defended once (last weekend at UFC 154) in more than two years. If the UFC is okay with the 170-pound ranks going more than two years with just a single title defence, I don’t see them rushing to create an interim middleweight title with Silva in good health and likely to defend the belt again by the end of next year.
While I don’t see the UFC introducing an interim championship, on the off chance that they do, the division is too deep to simply choose this pairing as the two men to fight for the strap.
The one part of Bisping’s argument for an interim title that I can agree with is that the middleweight division is deeper than it has been in years.
In addition to the now-injured Weidman, Bisping and Belfort, Tim Boetsch and Alan Belcher are both on four-fight winning streaks, as is Weidman’s teammate and replacement opposite Boetsch, Costa Philippou. With that abundance of talent available and all in the running, it’s hard to argue that Bisping and Belfort are the most deserving of battling for an interim belt if one should be introduced.
Not that I would ever expect Bisping to put anyone else above himself on the “deserving of a title shot” list, but in my opinion, “The Count” is behind a couple of those people in the pecking order.
Weidman is the most deserving challenger in the division, having won all five of his UFC appearances to date, including scoring a decision over Demian Maia in January, and brutalizing Mark Munoz in July. But even removing Weidman from the running as a result of his recent shoulder injury isn’t enough to move Bisping into the top spot for me.
Boetsch has posted four straight wins since moving down to middleweight last spring, with the last two of those coming against former title challenger Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard, who debuted opposite Boestch at UFC 149 after dominating Bellator’s middleweight ranks. Should he best Philippou at the end of December to push his winning streak to five, “The Barbarian” would have a legitimate case for top spot on the list of contenders.
You could make a case for Belcher as well, especially considering he’s finished each of his last four opponents, three in the first round. He’s matched with Okami on the same UFC 155 fight card that features Boetsch and Philippou, so fight fans will get a good look at both potential challengers on the same night, with the more impressive of the two likely coming away as the No. 1 contender.
For me, Bisping is third on the depth chart since a good part of his case is based on seniority and a “shoulda, woulda, coulda” against Chael Sonnen.
I think “The Count” looked great against Sonnen last January, and I believe he could have been awarded the decision, but at the end of the day, that one still counts as a loss. Regardless of how good he looked in defeat or how close the fight, I don’t think you can give Bisping the nod ahead of fighters who have earned four straight wins to his one.
Additionally, his “I’ve put in my time” line of reasoning is ridiculous to me. Contenders are determined by wins and whom those victories came against, not how long you’ve been kicking around the top end of the division.
Should he get through Belfort in January — which is far from a given — Bisping will be in better shape to lobby for a title shot. For now though, he needs to stop trying to talk the UFC into creating another championship belt, and just worry about coming away from Brazil with a victory.
E. Spencer Kyte is a regular contributor to ufc.com, UFC Magazine, and Fight Magazine, and writes the MMA blog Keyboard Kimura. Follow him on Twitter @spencerkyte.