Saturday, January 19, Michael Bisping steps into a hostile Brazilian territory as he challenges former champion Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC on FX 7. It's the most important fight of his career, as UFC president Dana White has guaranteed the Ultimate Fighter winner a championship opportunity if he is successful.
With an ever-evasive title shot hanging in the balance, there is no doubt that all of Great Britain will be standing solidly behind "The Count" when he enters the cage on Saturday night. However, that isn't to say that he doesn't have detractors.
As competition increases in the middleweight division, the level of animosity among fighters who are clawing their way to the top grows exponentially. For that reason, among others, there are several fighters who are hoping to see Bisping crash and burn at UFC on FX 7.
Here is a list of five UFC middleweights who are hoping that Vitor Belfort defeats Michael Bisping.
Luke Rockhold twice defended his Strikeforce middleweight championship in 2012. He is currently riding a nine-fight winning streak and is hoping to parlay that momentum into a crack at UFC gold.
The Strikeforce middleweight champion knows that an injury currently leaves top contender Chris Weidman on the sidelines. That leaves only Michael Bisping between Rockhold and UFC champion Anderson Silva.
In hopes of staying busy, but not taking on a major challenge, Rockhold called out newly-established Costa Philippou for a fight at UFC on Fox 7. Philippou is a solid boxer who recently entered the rankings by battering an already-injured Tim Boetsch, who was eye-poked along the way.
A loss for Bisping and a win for Rockhold essentially guarantees that the AKA fighter fights for UFC gold in 2013. However, a win for the British superstar keeps Rockhold in a holding pattern until further notice.
Chris Weidman burst his way into the UFC title scene after a pair of wins in 2012 proved that he cannot be denied. Kicking off the year with a decision victory over Demian Maia, the Serra-Longo fighter earned his fifth UFC victory by knocking out Mark Munoz over the summer.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury kicked Weidman out of a UFC 155 clash against Tim Boetsch. A win in that contest would have moved "The All-American" into a title fight, much to the chagrin of Michael Bisping.
Bisping spent much of 2012 publicly bashing Weidman in hopes of passing him in the pecking order. It didn't seem to be doing too much good, but once Weidman was injured, the Brit stole his spotlight for the time being.
Between the bad blood and the line-jumping, Weidman has a couple of reasons to hope that Bisping falls short on Saturday night.
In an interview with MMAfighting.com, Hector Lombard made his feelings on fighting fellow middleweight Michael Bisping very clear.
I'm really trying to push this fight because I'm not sure it's going to happen. He's the one who's talking like, I need a ladder to fight him and stuff like that. Let's see if I really need a ladder. I squeezed [Michael Bisping hands] and I'm sure he was in pain. And after that, he started talking about how short I am. But one thing you can be 100 percent sure about it is that he's got the smallest hands ever, like a little girl's hands. I don't really care for belts or titles I want to fight.
Before we go any further, I would like to thank Mr. Lombard for essentially ensuring that Bisping will be mockingly referred to as "Little Girl Hands" for the rest of his career.
Unlike our first two fighters, Hector doesn't want Bisping to lose so he can fight Anderson Silva. The former Bellator champion wants Bisping to lose so he can fight Bisping.
Michael Bisping has bad-mouthed a lot of fighters, but few of them have been laid into the way that Alan Belcher was following a UFC 155 loss to Yushin Okami. In an article that "The Count" penned for Yahoo! Sports, the Ultimate Fighter winner buried Belcher.
I’d like to say I’m looking forward to these two simpletons [Belcher and Tim Boetsch] keeping their pie holes shut about me for a little while. Those two have been calling me out and talking crap for months, and I would have got some real enjoyment beating them in the Octagon but two no-marks took that glory.
Belcher lost every minute of every round in a fight so boring I was afraid my brain was going to melt and start to dribble out of my ears. It was like someone detonated a nuclear bomb of boredom in the arena – everyone in the seats around me was playing Angry Birds.
What delusions of grandeur Belcher has. This is a guy who didn’t fight for a year after giving himself career-threatening eye-strain by watching too much internet porn, and he thinks he’s god’s gift to MMA. He even told UFC president Dana White that after he beat Okami, he’d fight me on January 19 if something happens to Belfort. This is a guy who got his arse kicked by two guys I smashed (Yoshihiro Akiyama and Jason Day) but he thinks he can not only beat me on a couple weeks’ training, but also assumed he was getting passed Okami, who is not to be underestimated.
Misery loves company. While Belcher doesn't have anything to gain on Saturday if Bisping loses, I'm sure he will take much pleasure in watching the British basher fall from grace.
At this point in his career, Rich Franklin has only one fight left on his UFC contract. At 38 years old, it is anyone's guess as to whether or not "Ace" will sign an extension. However, if he does only compete one more time inside the Octagon, the former middleweight champion will settle for nothing less than a big-name opponent.
In a recent poll on Bleacher Report, 32 percent of our readers selected Bisping as the best option for Franklin's final fight.
Heading into his fight with Cung Le, Franklin specifically cited Bisping as a potential opponent in his followup fight (via ESPN.co.uk). Granted, that statement was made under the assumption that "Ace" left Macau with a win, but the fact remains that he had "The Count" in his crosshairs.
Michael Bisping has previously made it clear that he wants to fight Rich Franklin (via ESPN.co.uk). However, with a looming title shot, clearly the Brit won't be taking time out of his busy schedule to take this fight instead.
The only way that Franklin gets the fight that he wants is if Bisping loses to Belfort on Saturday night.