In November of 2016, Yoel Romero scored a thunderous, third-round knockout win over former middleweight champion Chris Weidman, extending his record as a UFC middleweight to a pristine 8-0. With this win, he had earned himself a shot at Michael Bisping and the UFC middleweight title. It seemed that simple.
It’s been anything but simple.
Shortly after Romero’s destruction of Weidman, former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre re-entered our collective consciousness by announcing that he was returning from a long hiatus, and that he was interested in moving up to middleweight to fight Bisping.
Given the plethora of exciting options for St-Pierre in his native welterweight division—and the fact that he’d never fought at middleweight before—his being given his desired shot at Bisping initially seemed unlikely. Yet in the end, this is exactly what happened. In a Bisping vs. St-Pierre fight, the UFC’s owners saw a great opportunity to start making back the $4.2 billion they purchased the company for, and they went for it.
Despite an incredible win-streak, and the fact that he was able to build up a pretty memorable beef with Bisping with very little English, Yoel Romero was left out in the cold.
From there, the Bisping vs. St-Pierre train rolled out of the station. Though a date for the fight hadn’t even been worked out, the UFC released a poster for it, and flew the stars into Las Vegas for a press conference. This press conference delivered. Bisping turned up the trash talk on St-Pierre. St-Pierre suggested Bisping was drunk. It was a veritable sound-bite generator; just what the UFC needed to hype this already buzz-worthy contest. Everything was going according to plan. The Bisping vs. St-Pierre train rumbled on.
This week, however, it suddenly seems to be on the verge of derailment.
The chaos began on Monday night, during an episode of Bisping’s Believe You Me podcast. On his podcast, Bisping explained that he was keen to fight at UFC 213—the climax of this year’s International Fight Week—on July 8. Yet St-Pierre, he explained, was hoping to put the fight off until the fall. Unwilling to wait for the welterweight legend, Bisping then dealt St-Pierre an ultimatum: take the title shot on July 8, or I’m giving that title shot back to Yoel Romero.
“So, long story short it looks as if [St-Pierre] is trying to push for a later date [than July 8],” Bisping said (h/t BJPenn.com). “I heard that [St-Pierre] wanted like September or October, and that is what the UFC told me as well. But I am just throwing it out there right now. If he wants to wait until September or October, then he can go find himself another opponent. Because I call the shots. Without sounding like an asshole, it is my belt. I am the champion, and I am not willing to sit around until September or October.”
“If he’s not ready, then I guess Yoel Romero gets his title shot,” Bisping continued. “If GSP wants to fight then of course, there is a great storyline there. The fight would do great business. But I am not willing to sit around and he’s not calling the shots. I am the champ.”
While this outburst from Bisping is undoubtedly causing some headaches at UFC HQ, it simultaneously looks like a great thing for Romero. The title shot he deserves—the one he earned with eight-straight wins over the best fighters the middleweight division has to offer—could once again be his! It’s easy to imagine the Cuban contender, upon hearing this news, celebrating with his team, exchanging hugs, maybe enjoying a nice meal out…
Nope. A shrewd Romero quickly took to Twitter to call Bisping’s bluff.
With this surprising shrug-off from Romero, it appeared that the Bisping vs. St-Pierre train was back on the rails. But this is not the case. Not quite, at least.
With St-Pierre still keen to take his time, and Romero feeling like little more than a bargaining chip in the whole ordeal, Bisping then shifted his focus to yet another rival: reigning welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
To recount, Bisping and Woodley agreed to a 180-pound catch weight super fight a few months back. Bisping even shared video of his backstage negotiation with the welterweight king to Instagram.
With St-Pierre and Romero showing disinterest, Bisping shifted gears remarkably quickly, reigniting his old beef with the welterweight champ in a matter of days, and even getting him to agree to the much discussed July 8 date. The two champs hashed out the details on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
While this is all pretty interesting it’s important to remember that Bisping’s bout with St-Pierre is still on. Though the date of this fight is causing quite a bit of drama, the fight itself hasn’t been cancelled, and it remains the most likely option on the middleweight champ’s plate. It would appear, however, that when it comes to the date, venue, and opponent for Bisping’s next fight, all bets are off. This shit could unfold any number of ways.
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