In a surprising turn of events, the UFC has decided to once again hand out interim titles like hotcakes. This time the recipient will be the victor of #UFC213's middleweight co-main event between #YoelRomero and #RobertWhittaker.
Whittaker has been on a hot streak since moving up to middleweight. He has seven straight victories, six at middleweight, with his last loss coming to top welterweight Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson. His latest KO of supremely talented grappler Jacare Souza cemented Whittaker as a top-5 UFC middleweight.
Even more impressive has been Yoel "Child of God" Romero. Undefeated since his UFC debut in 2013, Romero has run through some of the best competitors the middleweight division has to offer. Knockout victories over Tim Kennedy, Chris Weidman, and Lyoto Machida tell the story of Romero's dominance. A blip on the radar came when Romero tested positive for a banned substance after his defeat of Jacare Souza at #UFC194, but he was later cleared of purposely doping when a supplement tested positive for an unlisted banned substance.
With resumes like Whittaker and Romero it's hard to figure out why this fight isn't for the undisputed middleweight title. That's right, it's because that belt still belongs to Michael Bisping.
A fight between #MichaelBisping and the returning Georges St-Pierre was on course to headline a pay-per-view this summer but a knee injury to Bisping and GSP's USADA testing period threw a wrench into those plans. Dana White stated that upon GSP's return, he will compete at welterweight or work his way up the middleweight ladder — very few people believe that.
Despite White's comments, both #GSP and Bisping believe that they'll eventually fight this fall and that it'll be for the undisputed middleweight title.
This is where things get complicated.
It's impossible to declare an undisputed champion when there's an active interim champion. It's also unheard of for the interim champion to not get the first crack at the returning undisputed champion. The most likely scenario would be the winner of Romero-Whittaker waiting over six months to challenge the winner of GSP-Bisping.
Did we mention this was complicated? It gets worse.
After waiting for the winner of GSP-Bisping, it's possible that the interim champion doesn't have a unification bout at all. If Bisping wins the title the belts will be unified and all will be well in the division, easier said than done in the UFC, but if GSP manages to be victorious there's a strong possibility that he'd vacate the title and attempt to challenge the current welterweight champion or, dare we say, Conor McGregor!
The interim champ would then become the undisputed champion, a la Jose Aldo after McGregor vacated the featherweight title. They would then have to fight ex-champ Michael Bisping in a fight that should've just occurred at UFC 213 or hope that Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman or another fringe top-5 fighter work their way back into contention.
Does your brain hurt yet?
We'd imagine that is how Dana White and the UFC matchmakers must feel every time they have to create an interim title to sell a pay-per-view card. When does creating meaningless belts, fostering fake narratives, and trying to trick casual fans into believing main events are more than #1 contender matches become too much of a hassle?
The answer is not now and not soon. The UFC is content with appeasing their top contenders with paper championships and slightly bloated purses so that they can schedule "super fights" that more often than not fall through.