Michael Bisping is still a few months removed from his Octagon return, but there’s no avoiding talk about his next opponent when there are some many options in front of him.
Bisping has defended his UFC middleweight championship once since taking it from Luke Rockhold last June. That lone defense was not, however, against a top contender. The UFC wanted him to fight Dan Henderson in Hendo’s retirement fight, which he did. Bisping won a five-round unanimous decision.
He has since been on the shelf dealing with a knee injury, but that hasn’t stopped everyone from talking about his next opponent, largely because there is a log jam at the top of the middleweight division and Bisping’s next opponent may not come from those fighters currently in the mix.
When former UFC welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre was negotiating his Octagon return last year, the focus was largely on a move to middleweight, potentially challenging Bisping in his first fight in more than three years. Now that St-Pierre has inked a new deal with the UFC, the focus is again on Bisping. It’s not an opportunity that Bisping is willing to pass up, critics be damned.
“I’ve never ducked anybody, and certainly now that I’ve got the belt, you can’t do that,” Bisping said during a recent episode of UFC Unfiltered. “Of course, now when you’re in that position, you want to try and make smart business choices, but you got to fight the best guys.
“After I won the belt off of Luke Rockhold, the UFC called me a couple of days later and offered me Dan Henderson, and I know that ruffled a few feathers in the middleweight division. Now, people want more than ever for me to face the number one contender. Great, I want to do that. I don’t want my legacy to be somebody who avoids the best guys.”
Yoel Romero is currently sitting atop the middleweight rankings, awaiting a title shot, but the likes of Jacare Souza aren’t far behind, also clamoring for a shot at the belt.
And it’s not that Bisping wants to avoid fighting them, but after years of paying his dues in the Octagon, if a big money fight (which a St-Pierre fight surely would be) presents itself, he’s going to jump on it. Despite his decade-plus UFC tenure, Bisping hasn’t had a blockbuster bout that has paid him the big bucks.
“If they offer me the No. 1 contender, I’ll take the No. 1 contender,” he continued. “If they offer me GSP, listen, I’d be a fool not to take GSP. Of course, I’d take GSP. If they were to offer that fight, as I said, there’s been no word of that yet. I hope they do.”
He thinks moving up to middleweight and challenging the champ after more than three years on the sideline wouldn’t be the smartest move for St-Pierre’s career, but Bisping is all for it.
“GSP kind of had a tough fight against Johny Hendricks last time out. I think spending three years away, coming back, stepping up a weight class, fighting me; I think that’s a bad idea for Georges St-Pierre. If he wants to do it, God bless.”
While Bisping is expected back by summer, it’s unclear how soon St-Pierre will be ready to make his return. Speculation centers on the third quarter of 2017, but nothing has been made official. So it is possible that Bisping could get a title defense in before St-Pierre gets back in the Octagon.