THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT 11/6: Michael Bisping and the UFC Middleweight Division Dilemma

By D.R. Webster, MMATorch contributor

Michael Bisping after beating Luke Rockhold for the Middlweight Title at UFC 1999 (photo credit Jake Roth © USA Today Sports)

The Michael Bisping saga continued this week and he continues to grab the headlines.

Last week in the Sunday Supplement, I looked at his desire to fight on the UFC 206 card and his challenges to both GSP and Nick Diaz for the event, in what he hoped would be a big money fight to close out the biggest year of his career without the pressure of defending his UFC Middleweight Title once again so close after his last defense in October against Dan Henderson in Manchester, England.

This week Bisping once again took the focus. However, GSP and Diaz haven’t been in the discussion this time, as the Middleweight Division moves back into focus whether Bisping likes it or not, thanks to an injury.

This week it was revealed that Luke Rockhold suffered a knee injury and would have to pull out of his fight with Jacare Souza, due to take place in Melbourne, Australia on Nov. 27. This fight, along with Chris Weidman and Yoel Romero at UFC 205, would have provided a clearer picture in the Middleweight Division and a possible next challenger for Michael Bisping’s title.

Both of these fights taking place also gave Bisping the excuse to challenge GSP and Nick Diaz without the pressure of having to answer to a looming title challenger, something which could take precedent over a random super fight. Now that Rockhold has pulled out of his fight, it leaves top contender Jacare without an opponent or fight before the end of 2016.

Weidman and Romero are fighting each other, so logic would dictate that perhaps Jacare would get a title shot against Bisping and, with Bisping eager to fight again before the end of 2016, things seemed to have worked out nicely for both men. This, however, is not the case, as Bisping threw some cold water on the possibility of defending his title against Jacare or anyone else in the top five.

On UFC Tonight, Bisping gave reasons why he can’t or doesn’t want to take a fight with Jacare. “I’ve got a busted orbital and I’m getting injections in my knee,” he said.

He anticipated criticism for his stance. “I’ve never ducked anybody in my life,” Bisping said. “Next week, Yoel and Weidman are fighting. Whoever wins, either that guy, or Jacare, will be my next fight, make no mistake. But I’m not doing it in a few weeks.”

Bisping wanted a big money fight for himself and, more importantly, without the title being involved. By opening his mouth last week he has now put himself in a sticky situation. He was all for fighting GSP and Nick Diaz, and at that time his injuries weren’t brought up and didn’t seem to be a serious factor. Now, because of Rockhold’s injury, it’s a spanner in the works for Bisping and now he is having to back down with a hungry and dangerous Jacare waiting.

I don’t blame Bisping at all for looking for the big money fights or trying to milk his current title run for as long as possible, but this situation has made him look like he is now ducking a fight.

He also claimed that money was an issue regarding a fight with Jacare, the difference of $250,000 compared to $3/4 million against GSP for example.

No doubt, if GSP or Diaz decide to fight again this year, Bisping will step up, injured or not, for the money. However, I highly doubt we see him defending his title again this year or putting himself in harm’s way against someone like Jacare after just having a tough title defense against Dan Henderson.

It’s a raw deal for Jacare who very much deserves a shot at the title and has for a while now. He now has no opponent and perhaps will be passed over in the pecking order after the Weidman vs. Romero fight, depending on how that goes.

Bisping seems to be calling his own shots after this latest hot run and, as I have said many times, will try to hold onto that belt for as long as possible. If that means not fighting Jacare and trying to get money fights, then it is what it is He may say that he would fight anyone at anytime, which may have been true before he won the UFC Middleweight Title. Now he will be selective of who he fights, going against his “take on all comers” persona.

Aside from dismissing a fight with Jacare, he also shut the door on a possible title fight with Yoel Romero. This week on SiriusXM Rush he discussed why. “If Yoel beats Chris, I honestly don’t think I’ll fight Yoel, because he tested positive for steroids,” he said.

Bisping further elaborated on this by claiming that the benefits of steroids last long beyond there usage, which would give Romero an unfair advantage, also adding that he doesn’t deserve to be rewarded with a title shot for this reason.

While I can see Bisping’s point, it’s just another reason he can use in order to avoid challengers that he doesn’t feel like fighting. After fighting Dan Henderson and coming close to losing his belt, another tough fight with his belt hanging in the balance isn’t on Bisping’s “To Do List” for the foreseeable future or until he is forced into it.

Bisping did, however, mention that he was interested in fighting Chris Weidman, especially after their online exchanges last year. So perhaps this will be the next fight that Bisping takes. He obviously sees this fight as more of a money fight than Jacare or Romero, perhaps due to the previous tension that they built in their online spat as well as Weidman’s notoriety stemming from him being that man who dethroned the great Anderson Silva.

If Weidman can beat Romero, then this fight could happen early next year. If Romero wins, then I can see the Middleweight Division being held up for a while until Bisping finds a fight that suits him in terms of money and style.

If the UFC want to avoid one of their best divisions being put on the shelf because of the champion’s attitude, then they may have to take a hard line and make Bisping defend the belt against the top contender, no questions asked.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN, ALSO ON BISPING: THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: In-depth look at Michael Bisping’s challenges to GSP and Nick Diaz

(D.R. Webster writes “The Sunday Supplement” for MMATorch each week and also authors the MMATorch Daily Trivia feature. He has written for Daily Record Sport, WrestleTalk TV, Sports Kings, and a variety of other combat sports sites and publications, includinv review shows and DVDs, news reporting, columns, and fantasy articles.)

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