Few fighters in the middleweight division have been as adamant about a title shot as Michael "The Count" Bisping, and that sentiment didn't change in a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani's The MMA Hour.
"In my opinion, the hardest fight in the 185 [pound] division, other than Anderson Silva, is Vitor Belfort ... If I beat Vitor Belfort, I think there's no question that I'm the No. 1 contender," Bisping asserted. "And I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is. I think I deserve it. If I beat Vitor, I deserve it. If I don't beat him, then I don't deserve to be in a title fight anyway."
The UFC Brazil webpage announced last Friday that Bisping vs. Belfort was official for a Jan. 19 event set for Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Bisping also acknowledged that even with a victory over "The Phenom," it is quite possible that he still won't get a fight with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva due to a possible superfight looming with UFC welterweight title holder Georges St-Pierre.
Listen, would I like to fight for the title? Of course I would, but that opportunity hasn't been presented. By all accounts, I think Anderson Silva is probably going to be fighting GSP, if GSP beats Condit next. Yeah, a lot of people want me to fight for the title, but as I said that opportunity isn't there right now.
GSP has been inactive since March 2011, when he defeated former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields via unanimous decision. "Rush" suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in December and has been rehabbing the injury ever since.
He faces UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, a former teammate, on Saturday at UFC 154 to unify the belts. Silva is said to be in attendance for the event and is expected to call out St-Pierre if he does indeed defeat Condit.
Meanwhile, Bisping's best case for a title shot came against Chael Sonnen at UFC on FOX 2 in January. Despite being a closely contested affair, Bisping lost via unanimous decision, snapping a four-fight win streak.
He has since rebounded with a convincing decision victory over Brian Stann at UFC 152 in September.
Should a win over Belfort propel the season 3 winner of The Ultimate Fighter to the next title bout at 185 pounds?