The latest round of public commentary coming from Michael Bisping underscores the issue facing the next UFC middleweight champion, whoever that may be: if that person doesn't beat Anderson Silva, he'll never have the respect that comes with being a champion.
Bisping tweeted the day before Thanksgiving that he thinks his Jan. 19, 2013, fight against Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX should be for the interim middleweight title.
"sad to hear Weidman is injured, but with him out for maybe 6 months and silva doing the super fight, me vs vitor Belfort for interim title," Bisping tweeted.
Followed by "Tweet Dana and get on his case,me vs vitor for interim title, wiedmans out, silvas fighting Gsp, I'll fight Anderson when he's back."
The popular British fighter then told Fighters Only magazine the day after Thanksgiving that he was joking about the tweet, but the more he thinks about it, the more he believes it.
Silva, of course, is the reigning champion at 185 pounds and has never lost a UFC bout -- a stretch of six years and 16 fights. Silva, 37, said after his TKO of Stephan Bonner at UFC 153 that he wanted to take a year off. He also said he wants to fight welterweight Georges St-Pierre next in a super fight between two of the top three pound-for-pound mixed martial artists in the world.
Those statements are somewhat contradictory, highlighted by UFC president Dana White's outward drive to make that fight happen. He has said publicly that it could happen in May 2013 at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, a soccer stadium in Brazil or somewhere in Toronto, presumably at the Rogers Centre that hosted 55,000 fans for St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields in April 2011.
Very few people consider an interim champion to be an actual champion. Not the fans, not the media. Heck, even most fighters know they're not the real champion yet. Sure, it looks good in the history books and a promotional poster, but until they beat the champion, it is just a runner-up sash.