A Champion’s Prerogative – Big Money vs. Number One Contender Fights

A Champion’s Prerogative – Big Money vs. Number One Contender Fights

To fight a number one contender or go for big money fights, what is a Champion’s duty?

Michael Bisping is the Middleweight Champion. He’s been in the UFC for a long time and has fought a record 27 times for them.  He wants to bypass the top contender and land a big money fight. He deserves a little bit of freedom and has earned the right to do things his way. Right?  Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on who you ask.

yoelMichael Bisping faces a bit of a quandary.  He should be squaring off against Yoel Romero for the Middleweight title, but he doesn’t want that.  He wants a fight that he sees as a bigger payday.  At age 37 and having logged some difficult miles in the harshest and most unforgiving playing field in sports, Bisping is looking to cash in before hanging up the gloves.  Makes sense to me.

That being said, what’s fair for Mike Bisping, isn’t fair for Yoel Romero.  In terms of fighters not getting deserved title fights, look no further than Welterweight Damien Maia. He has been overlooked for a title shot, because he’s not seen as a big draw.  His talent is massive; His ability to draw buyrates – not so much.  It’s an unfair aspect of an unfair sport in what ultimately is an unfair world.

Conor McGregor Factor

That brings us back to Michael Bisping. Bisping wants to make as much money as he can before he retires, as does every single fighter on the roster. The quickest way to do it is to follow Conor McGregor’s lead.  Conor McGregor has almost single-handedly changed the landscape of the sport. Simply fighting him, win or lose, offers a fight purse big enough make a career (see Eddie Alvarez).  That said, Conor is just one man. It is not his responsibility to be the goose that lays the golden eggs for everyone in the sport. So what has to happen, is other fighters need to learn to market themselves. With Ronda Rousey’s fight future up in the air, Conor on hiatus, and Jon Jones perennially suspended, the sport is in need of some big-name draws. Fast.

Bisping is a polarizing fighter who is either loved or hated. There’s not much middle ground there.  People tune in to see him, either to cheer him to victory or simply to watch him lose.  He has a built in audience and he wants to face someone of similar popularity.  Who might that be?  That’s the big question.

The one fighter currently not in the UFC who could bring instant PPV buyrates and have a compelling fight with Bisping is Georges St Pierre.  Granted, GSP is a Welterweight, but they could do a super-fight at a catchweight of 178. People would tune in by the millions.  In this case, what’s good for Mike Bisping, is good for WME and the UFC. It makes sense that the UFC should want it as well.

Bisping vs. GSP would be Massive

GSP vs. Bisping is huge.  It’s the The Good Guy vs. The Bad Guy in MMA’s purest form.  It leaves Yoel Romero out in the cold, but sadly that’s how it goes.  He’s not the most popular guy in the promotion and I don’t see a ton of fans clamoring for him getting the fight.  The powers that be bypassed logic and natural contenders for Dan Henderson, so they can do it again for Bisping.gsp

All of those things being true, at the core of the issue is what a champion is compelled to do.  Does he have to defend the belt against the number one contender, or simply defend the belt?  Most fans of the sport don’t necessarily agree with the UFC rankings anyway, so who is to say which contender is the most deserving of a title shot?  What makes Yoel Romero more deserving than Luke Rockhold or Gegard Mousasi?

The other aspect to consider, is what do titles in the UFC really mean at this point? Conor McGregor won two at the same time and will likely never defend either of them.  Interim championship belts are handed out like black-belts at the local McDojo.  The titles are watered down and not as respected as they once were. I mean, you can win TUF and get an instant title shot.  The notion of the title shot being something you ‘earn’ has gone the way of the dinosaur.

What is ‘Earned’?

So let’s put the whole ‘earned’ title shot to the side. If you want to succeed in today’s UFC, you need to sell PPVs.  As the saying goes, ‘You need to move the needle’. Michael Bisping and GSP would move the needle. They might break the needle.

Like I said, Michael Bisping is in a bit of quandary. Does he fight Romero and risk injury in a fight that isn’t likely to sell? Does he hold out and say, ‘Show me the money?’

Bisping should stand firm and wait for a money fight. I mean, he’s ‘earned’ it. Right?