‘Jacare’ says that Bisping ‘deserves respect,’ but that Rockhold will stay UFC champ

Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza says he's the real number-one middleweight title contender. 

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

New middleweight title challenger Michael Bisping took some swipes at No. 1 contender Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza not being able to accept a fill-in fight against champion Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, just days after he beat Vitor Belfort at UFC 198. Souza says he went into the Belfort bout with an injured knee.

He seemed to make the injury worse during his victory over "The Phenom," so Souza underwent surgery to repair it. Despite Bisping’s insults, Souza told Guilherme Cruz that he has respect for Bisping.

"He’s underestimated by many people," he said.

"But, I don’t underestimate him. I know what he can do. I believe he will do a great fight with Rockhold. Bisping is tough, deserves respect. If you let him come, he will do it until the end and might win. … At this level we can’t underestimate anyone."

With that said, Souza sounded quite sure that Rockhold will beat Bisping. Then, Souza expects to get his rematch with Rockhold after their close five-round 2011 Strikeforce title bout.

"Rockhold keeps the title," he predicted.

"He [already] has a good win over Bisping [in 2014], and I believe he will keep the belt. … Everything indicates that Rockhold will keep the title."

Bisping may have been fortunate enough to get a chance to fight Rockhold because of Chris Weidman’s and Yoel Romero’s injuries, but Souza went on to maintain that he’s the real No. 1 contender at 185 pounds.

"[Bisping] is in the UFC for a long time, but that means nothing," the Brazilian countered.

"I [just] fought the guy [Vitor Belfort] that knocked him out, so no way he’s in front of me. The guys I beat are tougher than the ones he defeated. Time means nothing. What really means [something] is what you’ve done to earn it. I earned it.

"They called me on short notice and I couldn’t take it, but I’m next. No need to say anything else. My loss to [Yoel] Romero was a robbery and then he got caught [using banned PEDs]. Weidman won’t return until November, and I beat Vitor up, so I’m next."