As Jim Genia reported earlier today, Michael “The Count” Bisping has received the next crack at UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. Bisping will replace the injured Chris Weidman, who pulled out of the show due to a neck injury, in the main event of UFC 199 at the Forum in Los Angeles.
Fans of “The Count” will say it’s been a long time coming.
In fact, the bout with Rockhold, which will be held on June 4, will come almost ten years after the Liverpool, England native’s victory on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Bisping won TUF 2’s light heavyweight tournament final back in June 24, 2006; bringing his MMA record to 12-0 and rocketing him to the world stage. Since that night, he’s appeared in 24 UFC bouts — scoring a record fourteen wins in the promotion’s middleweight division along the way.
It would seem obvious to call this fight, even though it comes as a late replacement, as hard earned a title shot as there ever was.
But, did he really earn it? Really?
Bisping has certainly enjoyed a great career in the UFC. He’s one of the sport’s most memorable interviews and has battled to many a victory. But he also has more than his share of losses, including a second round finish at the hands of Rockhold in their previous encounter.
“Bisping’s last loss in the cage was against Rockhold back in 2014,” Jim wrote yesterday. “But he’s since rattled off a trio of wins, most recently against Anderson Silva, and, well, that’s how that goes.”
MMA fans around the world answered with a similar feeling of apathy.
The announcement on Twitter by UFC on FOX: “Bisping get the call to face Rockhold in the new main event!” was greeted with comments like: “Why?” Along with “Correction: Bisping gets the call to get his a– kicked,” and “F—, I got tickets to this, so annoyed. But I love the sport, just not BS match-ups.”
Another of Bisping’s recent losses was a one-sided decision, back in 2014, to Tim Kennedy. Sadly, Kennedy is also unavailable — due to a tour with our nation’s Armed Forces.
As it turns out, the decision to offer the shot to Bisping seems as much a matter of timing as a reward for long and meritorious service for the promotion. British fight pundit “The Fight GURU” posted a list of other UFC contenders in a memorable Tweet:
— .THE FIGHT GURU. (@TheFightGuru) May 18, 2016
It seems sensible. It’s best to let possible contenders like Hall and Johnson develop a bit more, and not take this shot only two weeks away.
But, even if he’s right — so are the disappointed fans. The truth is that this isn’t a great fight. But, as Jim puts it, that’s how that goes – and it may be the wave of the future. Many of boxing’s champions fight twice a year, once against a true contender and another against someone on the fringe of contention. It has its benefits.
This bout will offer a showcase for Rockhold’s skills in front of rabid fans in his home state. We’ll get some great interview segments out of it. And who knows, a fight’s a fight, maybe Bisping will surprise us.
So sure, it’s a disappointment, and maybe it’s a little unfair besides — but it’s still the UFC’s best option.