UFC MW Michael Bisping certainly knows how to maximize his public profile. Because he's by far the most successful British fighter in UFC history, he's had a value to the promotion that exceeds what he's been able to accomplish in the cage.
"Regarding Anderson, I surely don't want an easy road to the championship," said Bisping. "His last fight was at light heavyweight. His next fight is going to be at a catch-weight. When will be fight at middleweight? What if he gets injured and has to be on the sidelines? All that time will have passed. All the fighters at the top of the middleweight division are on the sidelines. We all want to be world champion some day. We work so hard and strive for it.
"It's not there if Anderson isn't defending the title. I'm not knocking him. He's the greatest fighter we have. But a champion needs to defend the title or he needs to vacate it. And when he comes back to middleweight, he should get an automatic shot. Or they should create an interim title. With Weidman out for six months, I don't think (Tim) Boetsch would have beaten Weidman. I don't think he can be world champion. I think myself and Vitor should be fighting for the interim title. Whoever wins it should continue to defend it. We keep the division moving. The division is more stacked than it's ever been but the champion isn't defending the belt."
Of course he can't help under-cutting his case by denigrating Belfort:
"Far be it from me to look past Vitor. I'm trying to make this fight more significant. I'm concerned that I've got my hands full. It's not going to be easy. We're fighting in Brazil. He hits hard. But I think I'll weather the storm and he'll become a punching bag."
While Bisping might have a case for an interim title shot if Anderson Silva actually does not defend his MW belt for the whole of 2013, January is a bit early for that call to be made.
Looking at the Bloody Elbow November Meta-Rankings though, it's hard to miss that although Bisping is ranked 4th, the guys ahead of him are the injured Chris Weidman and the recently defeated (and off to the LHW division) Chael Sonnen.
However with Tim Boetsch right there at #5 and Belfort all the way down at #7 it's hard to buy Bisping's attempt to dismiss Boetsch because he would be an underdog to the heavily hyped Weidman. Boetsch would quite possibly be favored against Bisping.
A more realistic option would be for the winner of Bisping/Belfort to be in the hunt for an interim title shot against some configuration of Rockhold, Boetsch, Belcher/Okami and Lombard/Palhares should Silva indeed not defend his title in 2013. Let's discuss again in the spring.