Over two months have passed since Michael Bisping dethroned Luke Rockhold with a stunning upset at UFC 199 to claim the UFC middleweight title, and things haven't gotten any less crazy in the 185-pound division.
"The Count" passed over a slew of top names to settle on a rematch against No. 12 ranked Dan Henderson for his first title defense at UFC 204. And while Bisping will likely be favored to get through the 45-year-old Henderson, former UFC champion Chris Weidman is confident that is where the Brit's fairytale run will end.
"There's a chance he's beating Dan Henderson, but I don't think there's much of a chance he's beating anybody else in the top-five," Weidman said Monday on The MMA Hour. "But he's the champ after winning and holding the belt, so that's definitely surreal. To walk around and people ask me who the champion is in my weight class and I have to say Michael Bisping, it's a little embarrassing, but that's just the way it goes."
Bisping and Henderson are scheduled to meet on Oct. 8 in Manchester, England. Henderson has vowed that the fight will be the last of his fighting career, regardless of whether he wins or loses, meaning there is a chance the belt could be vacated by the time Weidman returns on Nov. 12 at UFC 205.
That would just be par for the course though, as there's no greater example of the craziness of 2016 than Bisping's unexpected rise to the throne.
"Honestly man, all power to him," Weidman said. "He went out there on short notice and beat Luke Rockhold and knocked him out in the first round. More power to him. But I just don't think he is the best champion we've seen. I never thought he was championship material, to be honest with you. It was farfetched for him to get a title shot ever again. He happened to be at the right place, right time when I got injured and he happened to have an opportunity to step up and fight for the belt, and he made it work.
"But before that, he was in the UFC for how long and he never even fought for the belt? So now for him to fight for the belt and become champion out of nowhere is definitely a weird thing."
Weidman was actually the catalyst for Bisping's recent breakthrough, as it was his neck injury before UFC 199 that paved the way for Bisping to step in and fight Rockhold on short notice.
Weidman ended up undergoing non-invasive surgery to correct a cervical disc herniation in his neck, and he is already cleared to begin training and preparing for his next move.
"I can do anything," Weidman said. "Six weeks out, I went back to the doctor and he completely cleared me for everything. So that was about, I guess, three or four weeks ago. I've been completely cleared to do anything, but I'm still taking it slow. I'm not doing any hard sparring yet. I'm not doing hard wrestling yet, even though I'm allowed to. I just feel like there's no reason to, so I'm focused on drilling and just getting better, just trying to enjoy it."
Weidman may still be waiting for the UFC to settle on his next opponent, but he already has a date locked down for his comeback.
After years of waiting and campaigning, the New York native will be a featured part of the inaugural UFC card in New York City's Madison Square Garden. Luckily the Nov. 12 date is far enough away that Weidman will have plenty of time to return to full strength, and while he isn't being choosy about his dance partner, he hopes to at least get a fight that will at least propel him back into the title picture.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Weidman said. "I'd like to have the biggest fight I could possibly have at Madison Square Garden. It's been a dream of mine to fight at MSG. I would like to have a fight that everybody can get excited about, a fight everybody really wants to see. And I really don't know who gives that to me.
"I think the redemption against Luke Rockhold, I think that would be the biggest in my eyes. And so that'd be the fight I want. Then you have ‘Jacare,' you have Yoel Romero, and you have some of the other old-timers with the big names, Anderson Silva and other guys like that. I don't know who it's going to be, I'm just kind of putting it in the UFC's hands. Whoever they decide to give me, they give me. But if I had to pick, it'd be Luke because I think we're the two best in the division and I would like to fight the best guy, especially a guy who beat me. I want to get that one back, especially in front of a home crowd at MSG."