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#UFC 217 #Conor McGregor #Michael Bisping #GSP #UFC Fight Night 55


So Luke Rockhold shows up in Pittsburgh for UFC Fight Night 116, wins the fight he’s supposed to win against David Branch, then gets on the mic afterward with fire in his eyes and spits some threatening words at … Georges St-Pierre?

That’s not how it was supposed to go. Granted, it’s been a little more than a year since Rockhold lost his UFC middleweight title in a stunning upset, and memories can get hazy over time, but shouldn’t it be Michael Bisping who Rockhold yells at in post-fight interviews?

And, in a way, maybe he was. As Rockhold explained backstage after the fight, he wasn’t calling St-Pierre out by any means. He was warning him off, urging him out of the way, precisely because the former UFC welterweight champ’s scheduled comeback against Bisping at UFC 217 in November is the thing standing in way of Rockhold’s quest to take the title back from Bisping.

“I’m trying to inspire (St-Pierre) in any way, shape or form,” Rockhold told MMAjunkie. “Get the (expletive) out. This is my fight.”

First of all, yeah, that’s probably not going to work, and one must assume that Rockhold knows it. St-Pierre has had his sights set on this Bisping fight for a solid year now, so he’s not going to get scared and withdraw two months out just because Rockhold tells him he’s probably going to lose.

Second of all, while there are plenty of reasons to hate on the Bisping-GSP matchup as a pure cash grab, Rockhold actually hit on a good argument against it now that it’s far too late to do anything about it.

See, it’s not just that St-Pierre is in over his head, according to Rockhold, though there is that. It’s also that Rockhold isn’t buying the idea that St-Pierre might really want to be the UFC middleweight champ.

“’GSP,’ if he wins somehow, some way, because anything can happen in this sport, maybe, he ain’t going to (expletive) fight any of us,” Rockhold said. “There’s no way he fights any of us. That’s the stupidest thing about this fight.”

Rockhold’s not the first person to offer this hypothesis. You’ve got to admit, there’s some sense to it.

St-Pierre’s been gone from the UFC for nearly four years now, but when he got serious about a comeback it was in a division that he’d never competed in, which right there is a little weird. Then there’s the fact that he seemed to seize on this idea immediately after Bisping became the champ, whereas he’d showed very little interest in fighting as a middleweight at any other time.

Add it all up, and it seems like St-Pierre has pegged Bisping as his best bet for claiming a UFC title in a second weight class while also clocking a monster payday. If he’s successful on both counts, will he really want to hang around and fight the Robert Whitaker or Luke Rockhold-types in a consistent, timely fashion?

It’s possible, sure, but it does seem tough to imagine. And with the UFC’s middleweight class now looking more interesting and competitive than it’s been in years, it’d be a real shame to see contenders collecting dust while the UFC chases quick cash.

Can you blame Rockhold if, after doing that same math in his head, what he came up with in the end was a stammering, indignant rage? Bisping’s defended his title only once, against an aging rival far from the top of the ranks. The last time a true contender had a shot at the UFC middleweight belt was when Rockhold took it from Weidman in 2015.

That must make it hard to keep the faith as a top fighter in the division. Rockhold certainly is that, as he proved when he shook off some early rust to dominate Branch en route to a second-round finish in the main event.

But when you can’t say where any of that will get you, it makes sense to get a little angry. And these days it’s a lot easier to get that than it is to get a middleweight title shot.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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