No. 9-ranked middleweight Michael “The Count” Bisping got back to his winning ways at April’s UFC 186, scoring a hard fought decision win over CB Dollaway. Now set to meet No. 10-ranked Thales Leites at UFC Fight Night 72 on July 18, 2015 in Glasgow, Bisping is expecting to extend his win streak and then move on to a top contender bout.
Speaking with MMAFighting on a recent conference call, “The Count” believes that he has defined himself in the division, and a win over Leites should put him in the discussion for just that: a top contender bout:
“Obviously my last fight defined my position amongst the elite in the UFC,” Bisping told the media on a conference call on Wednesday. “If I get the job done against Thales, which, of course, I plan on doing that, with the greatest of respect, I think it certainly puts me in the discussion. Obviously Vitor [Belfort] is out of the window now.”
The 185-pound division is currently stacked, with a plethora of top contenders looming amongst the top of the division, most notably Luke Rockhold, who beat Bisping back in November, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who sit at No.’s 1 and 2 respectively.
Despite having been a UFC mainstay for years now, Bisping has never received a title shot, but that is still the ultimate goal and at age 36, the Brit feels as if he’s still improving. “The Count” also believes that a win over Leites should put him right in the mix with the likes of Rockhold and Souza:
“We’ve got Rockhold and Jacare, which are the next two guys in shot,” he said. “Let’s say Luke gets the next shot. By the time he’s at that fight, I’ll have beaten Thales Leites. I’ll almost be there. That’s always been my dream, my goal, and it still is. While I’m still in the UFC, I’m always going to [want to] be the world champion.
“I’m getting better all the time. I’m 36, but I still feel like I’m in my prime. I’m actually learning more and more as a martial artist, so I’m getting better. That’s always been the goal and it still is, believe you me.”
Speaking on his fight with Rockhold, Bisping noted that he was supposedly head butted, which in his mind affected the outcome. “The Count” claimed that he would love a rematch with the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) product, or a bout with Souza because a win over either would warrant him a title shot. However, Bisping made it very clear that he is in no way underestimating his opponent on July 18th:
“That kind of affected the outcome of the fight. So I’d love a rematch with Luke, but when I look at Chris Weidman, of course I respect the guy. He’s a great champion and a great person. But I believe I match up very well with Chris as well. Regardless of who it is, as I said before, I’m focused on my fight with Thales. That’s going to be a tough match up, for sure. I’d be a fool to look anywhere else. Once I’m done with that, regardless of who is champion, I’ll be confident in my ability.
“People I want to fight next are Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman and Jacare Souza,” Bisping said matter-of-factly. “They will be the top three names in the division and certainly, a win over Rockhold or Jacare would get you a title shot. Weidman is the champion. I believe one of those guys is going to fight for the title next, anyway. Either one of those guys would be a dream opponent after Thales Leites, but I would be a fool to look past Thales. That’s lesson no. 1: Never underestimate your opponent, never look past an opponent. I’m not doing that.”
Come July, however, Bisping is confident that he will take out the Brazilian, and once he does, he will talk about who’s next:
“We’ll discuss that in eight weeks after I sent Thales home with a sore backside,” Bisping contended. “We’ll discuss who I’ll fight next.”