After realizing his dream of becoming a UFC champion, Michael Bisping became one of the most in-demand fighters in the sport. In the weeks that have followed his shock knockout of then-champ Luke Rockhold, The Count has fielded invitations of violence from a still-sore Rockhold, former champion Chris Weidman, once nemesis Dan Henderson, and former welterweight icon Georges St-Pierre (allegedly).
One middleweight who is keen not get lost in the shuffle is 6th ranked Robert Whittaker who, with his manager Andrew Kanatli, reached out to Bloody Elbow to share his feelings on the division, as well as who the acerbic Brit should face next.
Whittaker revealed that he has already emailed UFC matchmaker Joe Silva about the possibility of facing Bisping this November at the UFC’s planned Fight Night card in Melbourne.
According to a source close to the situation, that match-up had already been targeted prior to Chris Weidman pulling out of his UFC 199 date with Rockhold, and the craziness that ensued. That source claimed that Bisping was likely to balk at a match-up with Whittaker and would need to be ‘forced’ by the UFC into accepting.
Bisping, when appearing on the Three Amigos Podcast, responded to these claims stating that he’d not heard anything from the UFC regarding a tilt with Whittaker down under.
In 2015 Bisping and Whittaker were booked to fight at UFC 193, but Bisping withdrew from that bout after opting for elbow surgery. Whittaker and Kanatli believe that Bisping’s surgery was a ploy to get out of the contest.
Kanatli, who shares Whittaker’s opinion that Bisping ‘owes’ the Aussie/Kiwi a fight, brought up a recent quote from Bisping regarding potential opponents in the middleweight division.
Speaking to Marc Raimondi of MMAFighting, in response to comments given by Chris Weidman to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Bisping said the following: "Half of this UFC roster are pussies. They wouldn't take [the Rockhold] fight. 'Jacare' wouldn't take this fight. It makes me sick. I'll fight anyone, any time, any place. I just proved that. I took a fight on two weeks notice."
"I think he forgot he strategically avoided Rob last year without a genuine injury," said Kanatli, in response to Bisping’s comments.
"Bisping searched high and low for an injury excuse last year to pull out of fighting Rob at UFC193," continued Kanatli. "In the end he could not find an injury so he opted to have some fragments removed from his elbow instead, that had been there for years. He could have done that after the fight."
After knocking out Luke Rockhold, Kanatli wonders if, "Bisping will have renewed courage and confidence to this time face Rob."
Despite his keenness to have Bisping make his first title defense versus his client, Kanatli did concede that it is likely that either Dan Henderson or Ronaldo Souza will get the nod ahead of Whittaker. "I think they will just be keeping Rob’s seat warm," stated Kanatli, who believes the 25-year-old Whittaker is primed to outlast the current crop of elite middleweights (Whittaker is the only ranked middleweight under 30).
Whittaker himself is currently recovering from hand surgery, which - according to Kanatli - went much smoother than was expected. Whittaker projects to have full use of the hand by August, meaning he will be ready for action in November.
Whittaker revealed that in his message to Joe Silva he stated that if he can’t fight Bisping next he would like to fight anyone ranked above him since it would be a "huge draw" for the Australian fans, as well as being a "tough hard fight."