UFC president Dana White made it known pretty clearly that Ronaldo Souza was the top choice to replace Chris Weidman at UFC 199. It's hard to argue that "Jacare" does not deserve a middleweight title shot against Luke Rockhold with his résumé.
That rematch did not come together, though. Souza turned down the fight due to a knee injury and the UFC moved on. Michael Bisping was the second choice and he happily accepted on two weeks notice.
"Listen, I want this," Bisping told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "'Jacare' speaks all the time about wanting a shot at the belt. Well, it was offered to him on a silver platter and he turned it down."
Souza told MMA Fighting that he felt pain in his knee a week before a fight with Vitor Belfort at UFC 198 earlier this month. An MRI showed a "minor meniscus injury." Souza didn't want to fight for the title at anywhere less than 100 percent.
"Everybody knows my desire to fight for the title and, if possible, in a rematch with Rockhold," Souza said. "However, I can't let the emotion superimpose the reason."
Bisping, 37, jumped at the opportunity to take the shot. He has been in the UFC for 10 years and this is his first chance at a title. "The Count" was stunned that "Jacare" didn't suck it up and get in there against Rockhold on June 4 in Los Angeles.
"I never thought 'Jacare' would turn it down," Bisping said. "Who turns it down? He just destroyed Vitor Belfort. He's in great shape. Yes, he might have a sore knee. Listen, I've got injuries all over the place, but you do it. You fight. The world isn't perfect. You wait for the perfect conditions, the perfect conditions never come."
Rockhold has already beaten both Souza and Bisping. The win over "Jacare" came under the Strikeforce banner in 2011 by unanimous decision. Souza believes he was the true winner of the fight. Rockhold defeated Bisping in 2014 by second-round submission.
An argument can be made that Rockhold vs. 'Jacare' would be a more competitive fight and perhaps Souza deserves it more at this point. But Bisping has the ability to promote a fight, the story behind him and -- most importantly -- the willingness to do it on short notice.
"There's a lot of people in the division that don't want it," Bisping said. "A lot of people that don't want it. [The UFC comes] to me, I've never said no once. As I said, I believe this is my destiny. I believe the universe is pulling it together. I've been slogging away for 10 years. Not only do I deserve this, I know I can do this."