• UFC 127

Bisping heading for title eliminator if he beats Rivera

ESPN staff
January 27, 2011

Marshall Zelaznik has confessed he would expect Michael Bisping to face at least one more fight after Jorge Rivera to seal a shot at the UFC middleweight title.

UFC chief Zelaznik is not involved in potential match selections, which are left under the expert eye of Joe Silva. However, he works closer than most to the European fighters on the UFC roster, so he is well-positioned to assess Bisping's future.

Bisping fights Rivera at UFC 127, and a third consecutive victory would add weight to his growing title claims. Current champion Anderson Silva is certainly aware of the Briton, recently telling ESPN he would like to fight Bisping in the UK.

However, UFC president Dana White recently suggested that Silva's next fight - after Vitor Belfort - will be Georges St-Pierre, if Silva and St-Pierre both win their forthcoming bouts. There is also No. 1 middleweight contender Yushin Okami to consider, so Zelaznik predicted Bisping is going to have to stay patient.

"I don't get to make decisions on who fights who, but you heard Dana recently say that if Anderson and GSP both win their next fights, they face each other," Zelaznik told ESPN. "That would certainly slow down anybody else's run to a title shot.

"Therefore, you would imagine Mike certainly has to win at least one more after Rivera to give himself a chance of being in that picture. But Mike is waiting for his turn, and he knows he needs to improve his skills in order to take on whatever champion awaits him when the time comes."

Logically, Bisping could face Okami in a title eliminator if he beats Rivera, although Brian Stann also wants a piece of the Brit. Zelaznik is not privy to what the future holds, but he is looking forward to watching the middleweight scene unravel.

"I've seen Brian Stann say he wants to fight Bisping, and he's not the only one," said Zelaznik. "Would Stann make for a good opponent? He showed against Chris Leben he likes to stand, he showed he's got great power, and he's a big favourite in the US. That fight would get a lot of attention from the media and the fans.

"But we don't plan beyond the one fight. So we don't plan beyond Bisping v Rivera or Silva v Belfort, or GSP v Jake Shields. If Silva beats Belfort and GSP beats Shields, that's when questions can be answered about what happens next. Yushin Okami also has to be considered."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.