When Michael Bisping was knocked out by a Vitor Belfort head kick at UFC on FX 7 earlier this month, the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight division was left in a state of flux.
Had Bisping defeated "The Phenom," the Brit would have been the next challenger to 185-pound kingpin Anderson Silva. However, the moment Belfort's shine landed upside Bisping's head, fans began wondering who is next for the longtime champion.
UFC President Dana White says "The Spider" wants to fight in the spring, and names such as Belfort, Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold, Hector Lombard and even Rashad Evans have come up in discussions, but there is no clear cut candidate to face arguably the greatest fighter in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.
Ed Soares, who serves as the manger and interpreter to the champion, tells Cage Fanatic he doesn't know who is next for Silva, he just wants it to be someone who is well known by fans and can draw eyeballs, naming former Strikeforce champion Cung Le as a potential opponent.
"(Silva's next fight) is still up in the air man, we don't know who that is, you know, unfortunately Bisping lost which was a big thing but, you know, I'm not too sure. I'm not too sure who could be next, I mean there's a few names out there but I think nothing really stable. There's been a few guys who - you know we want to fight someone who has a little bit of a name, someone that has as big of a name as possible and that's on a winning record or a winning run right now. So, I mean right now it seems like most of the guys with names have had losses very recently. So, when I think about it, like the only thing that comes to mind and I don't even know if that would be a possible fight is, you know, like Cung Le is coming off of three wins or something like that where he's got a little bit of a name, but I mean it's really hard in that division because it's so evenly matched all the opponents on any given day one of those guys can beat each other, so you know, once again whoever the UFC decided we're in."
Le has only won two-straight fights, defeating Patrick Cote at UFC 148 and Rich Franklin at UFC on FUEL TV 6, but his name does carry some weight in the MMA community. However, of the names discussed to face Silva, he is arguably the lowest ranked. If Le did fight "The Spider," it's unlikely that very many people would view the 40-year-old as a formidable challenger.
One fighter out there who many do believe would be a formidable challenge to Silva is Weidman, an undefeated fighter who most recently knocked out Mark Munoz at UFC on FUEL TV 4. Weidman has been campaigning for a fight with the champion since his victory over Munoz, but Silva and his camp have repeatedly stated it is a match up that simply does not interest them at this time.
When asked for a further explanation as to why Weidman is viewed as an unworthy opponent, Soares said it's not because of his fighting skills, it's because he lacks name recognition and, in his opinion, casual fans of the sport have no idea who the "All-American" is.
Here's what he had to say:
"I think Chris Weidman, not to take anything away from who he is as a fighter, I think he's a phenomenal fighter but I think I would like to see Anderson fight someone that's a little bit more recognized. I mean I don't think Anderson has anything to gain from that fight other than beating a super tough, unknown guy. He's a phenomenal talent and no disrespect to his fighting abilities, but we would like to fight somebody with a little more recognition and maybe Weidman is maybe a fight or two away, you know what I mean? In hopefully building up that, you know, his following a little bit."
"What is there to gain from us to beat him? Really, I mean I ask you what is there for us to beat him? He's going into that fight, most people, the general public are like ‘Oh Anderson is just fighting some guy named Weidman from New York, you know, he's going to walk through him.' So, if he doesn't walk through him, there's really nothing to gain other than another win and money in his pocket, so I think at this point in his career we need to take fights that make sense. And not that Weidman - once again not taking any credibility away from his as a fighter, he's a phenomenal fighter and I think it will be a good match up, but I just think he - he's been out of fighting for a little bit, you know he's been fighting some injuries. You know ask random people that watch the sport and ask them who Chris Weidman is and see what percentage will know who he is."
Who do you think should be the next man to take on Silva? Let us know in the comments section below.