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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Munoz surprised he didn't get Bisping fight

By Brett Okamoto

Munoz
As Mark Munoz heals, the rest of the UFC's middleweight division moves forward.
Mark Munoz remains well ahead of schedule in his recovery from elbow surgery.

The UFC middleweight has resumed training activities following a procedure in late January that removed 24 bone fragments from his elbow. The injury forced Munoz to withdraw from a No. 1 contender’s bout against Chael Sonnen at UFC on Fox 2.

On his way to a full recovery, Munoz has an evaluation with his physician scheduled for today and hopes to accept a fight from UFC brass in the coming weeks.

The list of potential opponents to welcome him back lost two names on Monday, when the promotion officially booked a matchup between Michael Bisping and Tim Boetsch for UFC 148 on July 7.

Following the announcement, Munoz admitted he was a bit surprised the UFC hadn’t opted to keep Bisping’s calendar open.

“It was surprising to me,” Munoz told ESPN.com. “I thought we were on a collision course. I know there are a lot of people in the general public that wanted us to fight.

“I would have loved to fight Bisping just because he’s a bigger name and I match up well with him. But hey, he’s fighting Boetsch and he’s got his hands full. That's a real intriguing fight. We’ll see what happens.”
Sonnen/Bisping
A little tied up: Michael Bisping, facing, is set to meet Tim Boetsch.

A fight between Munoz (12-2) and Bisping (22-4) would have certainly made sense. It was Bisping who stepped in for Munoz and lost a controversial decision to Sonnen in Chicago.

The two have never fought and are neck-and-neck for a future title shot at 185 pounds. ESPN.com has Munoz and Bisping ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, trailing only Anderson Silva, Sonnen and Vitor Belfort.

Timing, it seems, wouldn’t have been an issue, either. Bisping will fight July 7. Munoz, who was originally scheduled to be out until August, says he’d love to be on the UFC 149 card in Calgary, Alberta, two weeks later.

“I’ll take a fight in July,” Munoz said. “I’ll be ready by then for sure.

“I think the UFC likes Bisping and I think they’re giving him Boetsch right now. On the other hand, they like matching winners with winners and losers with losers. We’ll see what happens.”

With Bisping off the list, Munoz acknowledged there aren’t many options in the division left that make sense.

Belfort is already scheduled to fight Wanderlei Silva this summer. Rousimar Palhares and Alan Belcher, both owners of three-fight win streaks, will meet in May. Former No. 1 contender Demian Maia recently announced a move to welterweight.
Chris Weidman
By process of elimination, Chris Weidman seems like Mark Munoz's next opponent.

That likely leaves undefeated prospect Chris Weidman (8-0) as the top candidate. Weidman is coming off a decision win over Maia on the same UFC on Fox 2 card Munoz withdrew from.

“That’s probably it, huh?” said Munoz, with a laugh. “We’re playing matchmaker right there. I don’t know. We’ll see if they give me Weidman. I would like to have a title shot but we’ll see what they give me.”

With Silva expected to defend his title against Sonnen in June, Munoz is expecting at least one fight before earning a title shot -- maybe more. Belfort and Bisping would each have strong cases to leap past Munoz with high-profile wins in their next fights.

If that were to happen, Munoz says he would not allow himself to fall into the position of waiting for a title shot, considering he’s currently in the midst of the longest layoff of his career due to injury.

Of course, he’s hoping it doesn’t come to that -- and believes it shouldn’t.

“I feel that I deserve a title shot,” Munoz said. “I feel I’ve done everything I possibly can do to get that shot. That’s what I want to fight for. That’s what I want.”