UFC: Would an Interim Middleweight Title Make Sense in Anderson Silva's Absence?

James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2012

Courtesy of MMABadass.com
Courtesy of MMABadass.com

With Anderson Silva recently revealing that he plans to take a year off from MMA, it looks like we get yet another opportunity to discuss the merits of the much-maligned concept of interim titles.

Almost as soon as the middleweight champion had finished stating his intention to take a lengthy vacation, perennial bridesmaid Michael Bisping took to Twitter to request that his upcoming bout with Vitor Belfort be for the interim title.

Anderson Silva’s response to this idea was consistent with the fans’ own misgivings.

If the UFC wants to make an interim bout while I'm gone, it's up to them. I don't know if it will have any meaning but they can do whatever they want.

It’s a fair comment from the champion. Holding the interim title, particularly in that division, would mean absolutely nothing. It’s little more than a physical reminder to the individual that they are the best of the rest.

Making it all the more pointless is the UFC’s apparent indifference towards fighters defending said titles. While the UFC may do many things better than boxing, this sure ain’t one of them.

In boxing, interim titles have a clear purpose. Their owners are all but forced to defend the belt while the legitimate champion is unavailable. They do not get the option of waiting until the linear champion is ready to compete.

The UFC, in contrast, has for all intents and purposes created a No. 1 contender belt. They might as well rename it the Intercontinental title or some such nonsense.

Interim champions Carlos Condit and Renan Barao have chosen to wait for their divisions' linear champion to return to action, utterly defeating the purpose of their current status. As a result, the respective divisions are in an extreme state of constipation.

Contenders continue to announce themselves, yet they are forced to wait in the increasingly mammoth queue while still remaining active. It’s not just frustrating from a fan’s perspective, but it is also completely nonsensical from a business point of view.

One wonders why the UFC hasn’t stipulated that interim champions must defend their titles. After all, the aforementioned fighters have had ample time to face another opponent while they wait for a shot at the linear belt.

I don’t think I’m being overly cynical by suggesting that the UFC were simply trying to squeeze out a few extra pay-per-view buys by throwing a meaningless title into the mix at UFC 143 and UFC 149.

Fans are seemingly drawn to the stakes implied by a belt being on the line, regardless of whether the stakes are purely superficial.

Will things be any different if Bisping or Belfort is crowned interim middleweight champion? With the UFC’s recent track record, I’m tempted to suggest that we will be faced with precisely the same problem as before.