What happens when the champion in a division isn’t necessarily the best fighter?
That might be the case for Michael Bisping in the UFC middleweight division, said former champion Chris Weidman.
“It’s crazy because the middleweight division right now, you’ve got probably one of the toughest divisions – except the champion,” Weidman said. “I feel like the champion is kind of the odd ball out.
“I think he’d be an underdog to all the top 10 guys.”
That listed includes, among others, Weidman, Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza and Gegard Mousasi.
Weidman has not been impressed with Bisping’s title reign, which began when Bisping won the belt from Rockhold at UFC 199 in June. That was supposed to be a rematch between Weidman and Rockhold less than a year after Rockhold ended Weidman’s time as champion, but an injury forced Weidman from the card.
Bisping made his first title defense earlier this month, winning a rematch against Dan Henderson in a close decision at UFC 204 in England. Weidman gave Bisping credit for surviving a few knockdowns but disagreed with the judges scores.
“I thought Dan Henderson won the fight, I thought he won rounds one, two and five,” Weidman said. “I thought he should have got a 10-8 round, he had the guy finished in the first round and it could’ve been stopped.”
Weidman didn’t like the result, but the more concerning issue is that a fighter ranked 14th in the division nearly became champion. Sure, he agrees anyone can win on any given night, but is a champion really the best if he isn’t beating the best?
Bisping is now calling for a fight against former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who is pursuing a comeback from a three-year hiatus. To Weidman, that’s just Bisping ducking the guys who’ve earned a shot at his title.
“He’s champion, but he’s not fighting any top 10 guys,” Weidman said. “Bisping became champion at the right time, and things are being played right for him. So good for him, it stinks for the other guys who are better than him and have to watch this happen, but that’s part of the game.”
Weidman said he fought the “legends of the sport” when he was champion and always took fights against the top contender, something he says is not happening with Bisping. Weidman won the title from Anderson Silva at UFC 162, defended it against Silva in the rematch at UFC 168, then fought Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort. His three successful title defenses are the second longest in UFC middleweight history.
“I was never picking and choosing my fights,” Weidman said. “It seems they’re a little different when they know they’ve got Bisping, who I don’t think has the tools to beat these type of guys.”
Weidman, Rockhold, Romero and Souza all have a legitimate argument for a title shot, but first Weidman will fight Romero at UFC 205, while Rockhold and Souza will meet at the end of November. Either way, Weidman doesn’t see the champion at the same level as any of those fighters, as well as some of the names further down the rankings.
“I think [Derek] Brunson beats him, I think Mousasi beats him. There’s a lot of guys that beat him. I have to look at the rankings, but he’s just at the door with the top 10 guys.”
Weidman believes he’s the guy to bring Bisping down, but he’ll have to get through Romero first. The Baldwin native is still in the midst of his fight camp ahead of UFC 205 on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden, but took some time to help Reebok and Ford promote their “FitTruck” in Manhattan on Thursday. The “FitTruck” is on a 2,000-mile, seven-city tour to connect athletes and fitness professionals with communities around the country.
“We’re just showing different communities that you can work out anywhere,” Weidman said. “There are really no obstacles, no excuses.”