The rivalry building between Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping will have to be left simmering for now as the UFC are believed to be targeting a fight between the former Strikeforce middleweight champion and Lyoto Machida next instead.
“Michael Bisping is ranked number eight in the world. Rockhold is number five,” White said on UFC.com. “They’ll meet each other anyway eventually, but Rockhold has got Machida first.”
According to White the UFC are looking to host the fight in Brazil, presumably later this year, but at this stage he didn’t have an official date or location to announce.
Rockhold has been actively calling out Bisping for some time, even trying to lure him into a bet where he’d give ‘The Count’ his fight purse if he could last a single round with him in the Octagon.
However, while he may be disappointed that fight won’t be going ahead, as far as his title aspirations go, a fight with the current No.2 ranked Machida works out better for him and potentially could put him in line for a title shot.
As things stand current 185lb champion Chris Weidman will fight the No.3 ranked Vitor Belfort at UFC 181 in December, and nobody has yet definitively staked their claim to face the winner of that bout.
The No.1 ranked Anderson Silva doesn’t make his return until UFC 183 at the end of January and has previously indicated that he doesn’t want to fight the current champion for a third time, while the No.6 ranked Tim Kennedy fights the No.10 placed Yoel Romero at UFC 178 in September – a meaningful fight, but one that’s unlikely to secure a shot at the belt of either man.
So, that leaves only current No.4 Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza. Another former Strikeforce middleweight champion, he’s definitely right in the mix as far as title contention goes at this moment in time after three big wins in the UFC so far.
It’s possible that a win over Gegard Mousasi (No.7) in the main event of UFC Fight Night 50 on September 5th could earn ‘Jacare’ the next title shot, particularly if he puts in an impressive performance, but rankings wise it would not be as significant a victory as it would be if Rockhold defeated Machida.
It also should be noted that the man who defeated ‘Jacare’ in Strikeforce to take their middleweight crown was in fact Rockhold, so he’s in a strong position at this moment in time.
That being said, defeating Machida presents a major challenge for Rockhold, and ‘Jacare’ won’t have an easy night against Mousasi either, so there’s still all to play for in the UFC’s competitive middleweight ranks.