UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping is currently riding high after his huge upset championship win over Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, but talks has already switched to when and where the Brit will hold his first defense of the belt.
“There is someone I’ve got my eye on, but ultimately it’s down to the UFC,” Bisping told ESPN. “I do get a say since I’m the champion, so that’s nice. But I’ve never turned down an opponent and I certainly don’t intend to start as a champion. We’ll see what happens. There’s plenty of viable contenders. Defending the title in the UK is certainly something I’d love to do, and I’ve already made it clear to Dana White (UFC president) that I would like to do that.”
Bisping may not want to state who his desired opponent is at this stage, but this tweet by ‘The Count’ could be something of a (not so subtle) clue:
— michael (@bisping) June 9, 2016
Dan Henderson is coming off a huge KO win over former Bellator champ Hector Lombard at UFC 199. ‘Hendo’ also famously became the first fighter to KO Bisping when the two fought back at UFC 100, which makes a potential rematch a highly marketable fight – especially to hardcore UK and US fans.
Another leading candidate for Bisping’s first title defense is Rockhold in an immediate rematch, but the UK’s first ever UFC champ thinks his last opponent should fight his way back into contention – much like he had to when Rockhold submitted him in their first encounter at UFC Fight Night 55.
“As of right now, Luke Rockhold will not be my first defense. That’s a fact,” Bisping stated. “I had to go away and beat three more guys before I got a second shot at Luke. Certainly, after his behavior on Saturday, he should have to go away and do the same. He wasn’t even close. And it’s not like Luke beat me, then I beat Luke, so therefore we have to go again right away. The first fight was two years ago. Neither of us were champion then. He became champion, good for him. And I just knocked him out in the first round. Luke’s an incredible fighter. He probably has better technical skill than I do. He’s going to go away and do it the old-fashioned way like I had to.”