Will Michael Bisping Chael Sonnen his way to a shot at the title?

Before the fight against Nate Marquardt at UFC 109, Chael Sonnen was just another UFC Middleweight far, far away from challenging Anderson Silva for his belt. But the charismatic Oregonian had plans of his own; Sonnen used his second-to-none trash talking skills and the interest in Nate Marquardt’s campaign for a rematch against Anderson Silva to call out the Champ, eventually forcing himself into the mix for a shot at the title. Of course, Chael Sonnen backed up his talk by bulldozing Marquardt during all three rounds, to get in line against the winner of UFC 112 Silva vs. Belfort Maia match-up.

Whether you like him or not, it’s hard to deny that Chael Sonnen has an exciting personality. But Sonnen had his “share of losing”, and now finds himself in an ongoing battle against his toughest opponent to date – the NSAC and CSAC commissions.

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When looking for another UFC Middleweight, even remotely controversial and charismatic as Chael Sonnen, the only name that comes to mind is Michael “The Count” Bisping. It’s no surprise that the pair were originally set to resurrect The Ultimate Fighter series, something that even Brock Lesnar struggled to do this season. Sonnen and Bisping are the only ones who have enough ammunition to bring TUF back to the (at least) 2 million viewers region.

Bisping’s behavior at UFC 127 did some damage in short-term, but was the best thing to happen in his Mixed Martial Arts career in long term. Right now, everyone wants to teach Michael Bisping a lesson, from UFC’s Nate Marquardt, to Strikeforce’s Tim Kennedy. But the most important thing is that everyone interested in who will be Bisping’s next opponent and how he will do against him.

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With Chael Sonnen suspended indefinitely, Bisping is the biggest “draw” the UFC Middleweight division currently has to offer. “The Count” is the only one who can give ZUFFA a strong build-up material for a classic “bad boy” storyline.

Back in the day, Brock Lesnar was the one MMA fans loved to hate. Lesnar eventually became the biggest draw in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, earning a title shot after just one victory inside the Octaogn. Of course, there’s more to the Brock Lesnar story, and Bisping is a completely different fighter. But the facts are still there. Michael Bisping has to get the best out of his current situation, as apologizing more than once for the UFC 127 incident is surely not one of them.

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Next weekend’s fight between Jorge Santiago and Brian Stann may determine Bisping’s next opponent. Both fighters are coming off impressive victories, as one of them will definitely find himself “in the mix” on May 29th. Will Michael Bisping become the first UK fighter to win a major MMA title? Only time will tell.

Photo: Michael Bisping at the UFC 100 press conference at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on July 9, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Francis Specker