Michael “The Count” Bisping (20-3) has his goal set on becoming the UFC middleweight champion so obviously he will be paying very close attention to this weekend’s UFC 126 title fight between Anderson “The Spider” Silva and Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort.

After losing a unanimous decision to Wanderlei Silva last February (Bisping calls it “controversial”), “The Count” has put together back-to-back wins. He won a unanimous decision against Dan Miller at UFC 114 in May 2010 and then won a unanimous decision against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120 five months later in October.

Bisping’s dream is to fight for the UFC middleweight title at Manchester’s MEN Arena in his home country of England in front of all his fans. And in less than a month he will have the opportunity to move one step closer when he faces Jorge “El Conquistador” Rivera (19-7) at “UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch” on Feb. 27 in Sydney, Australia.

It is interesting to note though, Bisping does not consider Rivera a step up and as the sort of opponent that would help him move closer to title contention. In his column for the Manchester Evening News on Thursday, Bisping said:

“If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly excited when Jorge Rivera was put forward as my next opponent for UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia. I didn’t think he was a great opponent for me and I didn’t see him as the natural progression after beating Yoshihiro Akiyama in November. I’d hoped that after my last fight, I’d be pushed more towards the guys at the very top of the middleweight division. I wanted to fight a guy that would push me nearer towards title contention.”

“In fact, I actually asked to fight Nate Marquardt in my next bout, but the UFC weren’t interested in doing that fight, which is their decision to make and I respect that. So, after turning down Marquardt, they offered me Jorge Rivera and we went with it. The UFC were convinced it was a good style match-up and that it would produce fireworks and I’m sure that, when all is said and done, they will be right.”

Bisping’s comments, although not the most respectful, are not entirely without merit. Although Rivera has won three in a row and has had a bit of a resurgence of sorts, he is still not ranked in the top 10, while there are sites that have Bisping ranked at number 10.

Rivera has been finishing his opponents though, which is something Bisping has not been doing.

While a win for either opponent will not put them in direct title contention, this is a very important fight between two middleweights who definitely do not need to start the year with another title run setback.

Bisping gives his final thoughts in it:

“I know that a victory over Jorge Rivera won’t give me a shot at the belt, but it will kick 2011 off nicely and send me on my way to achieving my goals this year…”

What do you think about the Bisping vs. Rivera match-up? Would you have rather seen Bisping vs. Nate Marquardt, and could he handle Marquardt?

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