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Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold had some things to say about current champ Michael Bisping. So, to the surprise of presumably no one, Bisping had some things to say right back.

Rockhold had barely cooled off from his recent UFC Fight Night 116 win over David Branch when he directed some words at former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, urging him to step away from a UFC 217 title fight with Bisping. It was clear, however, who the real target behind the unconventional request was: middleweight champ Bisping (via Twitter):

Speaking to “UFC Tonight” on Wednesday, Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) was more explicit in his talks of reclaiming the belt that Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) took from him in June 2016. That came with some serious shade over Bisping and his title reign – which Rockhold called “the worst in UFC history.”

Later that night, however, “TUF Talk” gave Bisping a brief window to respond. And he gave it a valiant effort.

“It’s a good job that (Rockhold) looks good, because he obviously can’t add up,” Bisping said. “Because 15 months? I fought less than a year ago. He hasn’t fought since I knocked him out in three minutes – yes, three minutes – out cold.

“Then he comes back. He fights – who was it, David Branch? Never heard of him. You should go and rematch Chris Weidman, a couple of bums, try and claw your way back to the top.”

Rockhold is not the first one to criticize Bisping’s reign. While his upset over Rockhold was borderline epic, Bisping has defended the title only once since – in a closely contested match against now-retired Dan Henderson. With higher-ranked men like Yoel Romero and Ronaldo Souza on the brink of their own title stabs at the time, Bisping caught heat for failing to take on the division’s true top contenders.

Choosing to make his second title defense against St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC) – a welterweight, who, despite his legendary status, is returning from retirement at UFC 217 – didn’t exactly help his case in that sense.

Bisping, on his end, is right in pointing out that Rockhold hadn’t fought in 15 months before Saturday’s second-round knockout. But, while Branch might not yet be a household UFC name, he was a former two-division WSOF champion who hadn’t lost in 11 fights and five years before meeting Rockhold.

While it’s clear that Rockhold is aiming for the undisputed champ next, he did open himself up to other possibilities. One would be the division’s interim titleholder, Robert Whittaker, whom Rockhold dubbed “the real champion” based on the competition he beat.

Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC), however, is currently sidelined by injuries. Another option that Rockhold singled out was Romero (12-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC) – who, before losing the UFC 213 five-round bout that earned Whittaker the interim belt in July, was on a remarkable eight-fight tear.

As for Bisping, the future after the Nov. 4 pay-per-view headliner with St-Pierre at Madison Square Garden in New York City remains murky. While he has indicated that fight could be his last, he also mentioned his desire to have his final UFC outing in Manchester – perhaps a title unifier.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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