Michael Bisping stepped up on short notice as Weidman’s replacement and knocked Rockhold out. Four months later, Bisping defended his title against Dan Henderson instead of the top contender. An injury and negotiations to face former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre kept Bisping sidelined for 13 months. In the meantime, the fight promotion created an interim title. Robert Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero in July to capture the interim belt.
Bisping returned at UFC 217 against St-Pierre, who defeated Bisping to become a two-division UFC champion. He was expected to face Whittaker in a title unification bout, but St-Pierre revealed that he’s battling colitis and a time frame for his return is unknown. A true top contender has not fought for the 185-pound title since December 2015.
“I love fighting. I want to fight, but there are principles in this game. You’ve got to have morals. I’m not just going to fight fights to fight to get nowhere,” Rockhold said during an appearance on The MMA Hour.
Rockhold has been in talks with the UFC, but isn't going to sign a bout agreement that doesn't have the champion's name on it.
“There’s been talks along the way about potential this and potential that. They’re trying to make fights like Yoel Romero right now. Why would I fight Yoel Romero when there’s no clear-cut person fighting Whittaker? Obviously, I want to fight for the title,” said Rockhold.
“If that’s available, I’m not going to (expletive) sign any fight. I want to fight for the title, and if that’s available then that’s what I’m going to do. Don’t try to make me fight fights when, you tell me, what’s a number one contender fight these days? Did Georges St-Pierre fight a number one contender fight? I don’t think so. There’s no point in fighting guys when there’s no structure, there’s no rhyme or reason to who gets the title shot.”
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It' s not just the middleweight division that's seen a logjam due to an inactive champion. Conor McGregor was stripped of his featherweight belt and an interim title was created. Max Holloway now holds the belt which McGregor never defended.
McGregor won the lightweight title at UFC 205 in November 2016. He hasn't defended it either. The fight promotion created an interim belt in that division that is now held by Tony Ferguson.
Germaine de Randamie won the women's featherweight title by defeating Holly Holm at UFC 208 and refused to face Cris Cyborg and relinquished the title. Cyborg won the vacant belt at UFC 214.
Champions aren't defending their belts and contenders are sitting on the shelf or being passed over altogether. Rockhold is at his wits' end.
“Nate Diaz is my boy, but the fact that they were even negotiating Nate Diaz for a welterweight title shot doesn’t make sense. It’s disrespectful to everybody in the (expletive) division. We work our asses off to get to where we are. It’s a (expletive) sport. It’s pissing my off. It’s losing its integrity and it needs to get back to its roots.”