Michael Bisping is the UFC middleweight champion. That's not a sentence I ever thought I would type, but the long-time contender finally broke through the glass ceiling when he knocked out Luke Rockhold at UFC 199. The two men engaged in a verbal battle before and after the contest, and with each of them having a win over the other, it's natural to think they'll meet for a third time soon.
According to Bisping, who spoke to Brett Okamoto of ESPN about the issue, Rockhold will not be getting an automatic rematch:
"As of right now, Luke Rockhold will not be my first defense. That's a fact. I had to go away and beat three more guys before I got a second shot at Luke. Certainly, after his behavior on Saturday, he should have to go away and do the same. He wasn't even close. And it's not like Luke beat me, then I beat Luke, so therefore we have to go again right away. The first fight was two years ago. Neither of us were champion then. He became champion, good for him. And I just knocked him out in the first round. Luke's an incredible fighter. He probably has better technical skill than I do. He's going to go away and do it the old-fashioned way like I had to."
Bisping did say he had someone in mind, but wasn't naming names. He also stated that he had some input into who his opponent will be. He'd like to defend the title in the UK as well, and spoke to Dana White about that.
Before UFC 199, Bisping said he would give Chris Weidman the first shot at the title if he won. But after Weidman called him out on that, Bisping took to Twitter to tell him that he should fight Rockhold first. He even went so far as to say that he was ducking Rockhold:
@ChrisWeidmanUFC bum? your coming off a loss to the guy I just Knocked out cold. Fight rockhold, win and we'll see. I call the shots. #facts— michael (@bisping) June 9, 2016
@Ulrik_ @ChrisWeidmanUFC I know, so transparant. Chris stop dodging Luke. Be a man!— michael (@bisping) June 9, 2016
So who does that leave? There's Ronaldo Souza. There's the possibility that Yoel Romero would get the shot after his suspension is up. And then there is Dan Henderson, who called out Bisping for a title shot. That's a win that Bisping would dearly love to get back, but it's highly unlikely that they'd go in that direction.
We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out, but it's interesting that Bisping doesn't want to fight either of the past two champions right away.