With Michael Bisping out of the immediate Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight title contender picture thanks to Tim Kennedy, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza -- who recently underwent elbow surgery (see pics here) -- and his management have had an epiphany:
No backward steps for the sake of high-profile opportunities (that really don't currently exist).
Gilberto Faria, Souza's manager, recently informed Ariel Helwani on the latest edition of "UFC Tonight:"
"We are done fighting guys behind us in the rankings.... It's time to release the beast!"
Contenders ahead of Souza in the rankings (see the latest edition here) include division champion Chris Weidman, former 185-pound kingpin (and fellow friendly Brazilian) Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and, of course, Vitor Belfort.
Weidman and Machida are already booked to headline UFC 175 this summer, while Silva -- who would reluctantly agree to fight Souza -- isn't expected back in the Octagon until early 2015 because of a broken shin.
Last man standing, therefore, is Belfort.
However, "The Phenom" has been assured the next 185-pound title shot as recently as three weeks ago by Dana White, who revealed that he is still on deck as long as "he gets his business cleared up with Nevada." Belfort, remember, was removed from a match against Weidman because of the recent ban on Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), saying his body needed more time to adjust to training without it.
But, his return has been shrouded in
controversy mystery and can now best be described as completely bizarre.
Therefore, Belfort might be willing to accept Souza's challenge if it takes place in Brazil, giving him enough time to get his commission-related affairs in order. But, if Belfort can't clear up his current status soon, and refuses to fight Souza -- who is currently in the midst of a six-fight win streak (three in UFC) -- it wouldn't be a shock to see "Jacare" get the winner of Weidman vs. Silva later this year.
Luke Rockhold -- who also wants a piece of Belfort -- is another option for Souza, but he is currently slotted in the No. 5 spot in the rankings right behind him even though he defeated "Jacare" under the Strikeforce banner back in 2010 to claim the now-defunct promotion's 185-pound title.
How convenient ... at least for now.