Everything surrounding UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva lately has swirled about anything but defending his 185-pound divisional title, and everything points to the likelihood that he won’t be defending the belt anytime soon.
The last time he did so was earlier this year in July in a rematch against Chael Sonnen. He won the fight then went on to help save UFC 153 from cancellation by fighting Stephan Bonnar in a 205-pound non-title bout.
Silva has since indicated that he’s got several personal projects that he wants to focus on, plus, he has a target on Georges St-Pierre as his next opponent. If he does get the fight with St-Pierre, it would be a superfight, not a title bout.
If he doesn’t intend to defend the belt anytime in the near future – we’re already going on nearly five months without any word of a title defense in view – should an interim UFC middleweight champion be crowned?
Michael Bisping – the UFC’s self-proclaimed No. 1 middleweight contender – believes so. He’s scheduled to fight Vitor Belfort in January at UFC on FX 7 in Brazil, and feels that their fight is worthy of championship status.
“Me vs. Vitor Belfort in Brazil in January should be for the Interim Middleweight Title,” Bisping wrote in a Thanksgiving message to his fans this week. “With (Chris) Weidman out, I think me vs Vitor is a worthy Interim Title fight. Way more worthy than Urijah Favor’s 2354987th title shot and, and I would defend my Interim Title against all-comers and keep the division moving.”
Weidman has been regarded as the top contender to Silva’s title, or at least among the top two alongside Bisping, but he recently ended up on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.
Bisping feels like that leaves he and Belfort as the logical choice for an interim title bout. And he’s probably right… if there is to be one.
But the question begs to be asked: should the UFC institute an interim champion when its current titleholder isn’t injured? He just appears to be focused on things other than defending his championship belt.
It’s definitely a unique situation, but Bisping believes that, with all the momentum the UFC middleweight division has right now, an interim champion who is willing to defend his title would serve to keep the division moving forward.
“I’m at the top of my game, you had Weidman getting some serious momentum, Alan Belcher – when he is healthy – is as good as anyone at 185lbs in spite of that abomination on his arm, Cung Le has just KO’d the former champion Rich Franklin in one round, Tim Boetsch is there, Mark Munoz, Brian Stann, Chris Leben and the poison dwarf (Hector) Lombard are all in the mix and then you’ve got Vitor Belfort who is back at his real weight class after almost snapping Jon Jones’s arm in half on two weeks’ notice,” Bisping remarked.
“On top of that it looks like the Strikeforce guys are coming in shortly, too.
“As it stands, the middleweight division’s champion has no plans whatsoever to defend his belt until at least the end of next summer.”
Is Silva not defending his belt for a year or longer enough reason for an interim title bout?
“According to my boss and their boss – Mr Dana F White – Anderson and GSP will have a super-fight in May and who knows what happens then? Anderson could win and then fight Jon Jones at light heavyweight in September and go the entire year – 18 months and more – since defending the middleweight belt,” Bisping said in explaining his reasoning.
“Or GSP could win or Anderson get hurt… the fight could even be moved to mid-summer for venue reasons… a million things could happen even when we get to May. Meanwhile, the middleweight division is in a complete holding pattern.”
Should the UFC take the unprecedented step of declaring an interim champion when it’s current titleholder isn’t injured or otherwise unable to defend his belt? Do they need to do so in order to keep the division moving forward?
As always, only time will tell how this all plays out, but until it does, we can all weigh in on how the situation develops…