Is it possible for an interim title fight to carry more electricity than the real thing? That may be just the situation in the UFC middleweight division.
With lineal champ Michael Bisping (30-7) on the shelf following knee surgery, Cuban monster Yoel Romero (12-1) and New Zealand knockout artist Robert Whittaker (18-4) will vie for the interim strap July 8 at UFC 213.
That's according to ESPN's Brett Okamoto, who announced the bout Tuesday evening on SportsCenter.
It's been a topsy-turvy stretch of late for the middleweight division.
This winter, former welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre (25-2) announced a UFC return—at middleweight. There, UFC officials quickly announced, he would receive an immediate shot at Bisping's title.
That would be the same Bisping who has resoundingly convinced a large number of officials, pundits and fans that he is ducking Romero, the Olympic wrestler who has torn through his last eight opponents with a fearsome blend of skill, strength and power.
The plot thickened when St-Pierre announced that he wouldn't be ready to face Bisping until later this fall or even winter. That prompted UFC President Dana White to call off the Bisping-GSP bout altogether and proclaim Romero "next in line" for the title shot.
Of course, this is the same White who said the same thing about Romero back in January—only to turn around and hand the shot to St-Pierre.
Still following? Great. That brings us to Whittaker, who shot to the highest echelon of the division in April with his convincing knockout of Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. Apparently, that was enough to convince the UFC to book him as Romero's foil in a massive fight on a massive midsummer card.
Taking Romero's winning streak and the way Bisping has studiously avoided him, then combining it with Whittaker's explosiveness and huge recent knockout, and this could easily be interpreted as the "real" fight for divisional dominance. Particularly when compared with Bisping and St-Pierre, who for all his greatness is now 36 years old and hasn't competed in more than three years—and never at middleweight.
Cynical fans can be forgiven, however, if they continue to follow this division's storyline with one eye between now and UFC 213 in Las Vegas.