The UFC’s contender ranking system is no stranger to mockery, but MMA’s premier fighting league has shifted into a weird zone where their rankings are more academic than anything else. Conor McGregor’s been free to division hop with belt in tow, interim titleholders are popping up like zits and fighters are wanting to get paid the most possible for fighting another human being for money on pay-per-view. Rankings at this stage are on the verge of being obsolete in the current era of a sport.
In a recent interview with Champions, current middleweight titleholder Michael Bisping was pretty transparent in wanting to square off with whoever could earn him the most cash. This isn’t an unreasonable attitude for a fighter to have (remember the UFC price tag?), but it might derail what was a seemingly inevitable clash between Bisping and #1 contender Yoel Romero.
“I want the biggest fight I can get,” said Bisping. “I don’t mind facing No. 1 contenders, but at this stage of my career, I’ve fought the best guys forever. I want the biggest fight it can possibly be. And by biggest, I mean the biggest money-generating fight I can possibly have. I feel I deserve that. I’ve earned that.”
Bisping’s 2016 certainly featured fights with opponents all over the place in the rankings. His defeat of a past-his-prime Anderson Silva in London was followed up with an impressive first round KO win over division champ Luke Rockhold as a replacement fighter at UFC 199. Factor in a title defense versus Dan Henderson that was more about storyline than rankings and you can see where Bisping’s future might be headed.
“If that’s Yoel Romero, great. (But) if it ain’t Yoel Romero…I don’t care who the opponent is,” said the first British champ in UFC history. “I’m not bothered by any opponent. But I want the biggest fight possible.”
“The biggest fight possible” for Bisping will likely have to wait. The xXx: The Return of Xander Cage thespian is scheduled to undergo knee surgery and is unlikely to announce a fight until April or May.