For the last few months, Luke Rockhold has toyed with the idea of abandoning the middleweight division to move up the greener pastures of light heavyweight. Now it seems that time has finally come.
Rockhold had said he intended to move up to 205 pounds but when the UFC came calling with an offer to rematch Chris Weidman at Madison Square Garden, the former middleweight champion decided to delay those plans. But hat bout never happened as Rockhold was forced to withdraw from UFC 230 due to continuing complications with his injured leg that had been surgically repaired. Speaking recently with Submission Radio, Rockhold discussed why he has been kept out of commission, saying that he tried to rush back too soon, but now he’s taking his time, getting stronger, and when he comes back, he will be putting 185 pounds in his rear view.
“I think I rushed into the fight at Madison Square Garden,” Rockhold said. “They really wanted that match-up with Weidman at Madison Square and I liked it a lot, and I think I just made myself believe that I could make it happen. It was far too soon for my leg. There’s just so much internal healing in the scar, and the scar is just finally sealing up over the top. And then there’s all the underlying issues. And it’s right on the bone, and so if I were to kick, even at this point, it’s still fairly dangerous that the whole thing could just open up like a big female wound on my shin, like an axe wound. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know how else to put it. It could be really bad, and I’m not really willing to risk a fight at this point just due to that.
“So, I’m trying to heal. I got some stem cells injected back into it. And then my knee, that really kind of took me out of the fight, it was the last thing I was kind of working around everything else, it’s a little more than I thought too. It’s a small tear of my PCL and my ACL, so I’ve been trying to work around it. And I reinjured and hurt it a little bit, so I just noticed that I gotta back off for at least six more weeks probably now and move up, move up and get stronger. I’m just training every day. I’m lifting, so getting stronger. Getting stronger is the recipe, light heavyweight is the course. I’m coming for these guys, man. I’m just not really impressed with what’s going on right now in that division and I’m tired of compromising my body. And I’m a better fighter where I fight naturally and bigger and I’m long overdue moving up and I’m done with middleweight. It’s time to move up.”
Rockhold had a highly successful career as a middleweight, winning both the Strikeforce and UFC championships. His recent run has been a struggle though, having lost two of three since he won the belt and dealing with a near-constant string of injuries. Rockhold believes that those injuries are caused in part by the trauma he puts his body through just to make it down to the 185 pound limit and that moving up to light heavyweight will be the best thing for him, especially since he doesn’t think much of the competition.
“That is it, that it is, man,” Rockhold said. “I was ready to move up, and then they enticed me with that fight to get to Madison Square Garden and I made myself believe I can do it, but your body breaks down in camp. Everything just starts falling apart when my weight gets down further and further, and when the stress of the fight builds up my body just falls apart. So, it’s been meaning to happen for the last few years.
“I’ve been killing myself for many years now trying to make that weight. It makes me less of a fighter. I’m ready to move on and I’m ready to light these guys up. You’ve got guys making waves at light heavyweight that are somewhat laughable, you know? Couple of middleweight washouts reaching into the top 10 within a few fights, it’s… the division is open, I’m ready to feast.”
The light heavyweight division has been in a state of flux over the last few years, with the top 15 largely still populated by aging veterans. But this year saw Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos – who were excellent fighters but never considered top middleweights – both move up to the 205 pound division and wreak havoc, knocking out established fighters and earning themselves top-10 rankings. Smith in particular has been impressive, knocking out two future Hall of Famers and a top 5 fighter, putting him on the cusp of a title shot. Well, impressive to people not named Luke Rockhold. The former champion sees the success of less accomplished middleweights as a sign that he will dominate the division.
“Anthony Smith, yeah. I mean, what, Santos came up just recently too. These guys, I’m just not impressed,” Rockhold continued. “Not impressed with these guys. They’re a little sloppy in so many ways and I see openings and I’m ready to move up. I mean, the rest of the division, there’s a couple of good guys up there, but I don’t see much. I’m ready to come up and I’m ready to shut it down.”
Rockhold hasn’t fought since his knockout loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 221. The leg injury that forced him out of UFC 230 has still been proving troublesome for him, but the AKA product is optimistic he’ll be making good on his promise to dominate the light heavyweight division in just a few months time.
“March timeframe sounds pretty good,” Rockhold concluded. “I like the sound of that. I’m trying to do everything I can to get back in there, and so I want to rush my way in but I want to do it right. And I don’t want to have to fall out of this thing. So, I’m just waiting on the body to go, but I think March is a very realistic.”
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Out. Gegard Mousasi injured, out of Bellator 214 title fight with Rafael Lovato Jr.
VADA. Jon Jones says he’ll address CSAC proposal to enroll with VADA after UFC 232.
Battery. Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Ralph Gracie under investigation for felony battery.
The MMA Beat.
Gustafsson media scrum.
The humble UFC origins of the latest addition to the UFC’s Top 5.
Get this guy in the UFC, stat.
Heavy Hands. Looking back at UFC on FOX 31 and Kevin Lee’s puzzling decision making.
Fights Gone By. Reviewing the UFC’s final FOX card and the Bellator double header.
ONE is pulling out all the stops.
“ONE: A New Era” on March 31 in Tokyo will feature 3 World Championship title fights, the launch of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix, and the debuts of Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez. It will also have a Kickboxing Super Fight between Andy Souwer vs Yodsanklai Fairtex.
— Chatri Sityodtong (@YODCHATRI) December 20, 2018
Gregor Gillespie (12-0) vs. Yancy Medeiros (15-5); UFC ESPN+ 1, Jan. 19.
Andrea Lee (9-2) vs. Ashley Evans-Smith (6-3); UFC Phoenix, Feb. 17.
Danny Roberts (16-3) vs. Claudio Silva (12-1); UFC London, March 16.
1997: Randy Couture became a UFC champion for the first time, taking a decision over Maurice Smith at UFC Japan: Ultimate Ultimate. That night also featured the only appearance of Kazushi Sakuraba who won the one-night heavyweight tournament.
Just a heads up, the Morning Report will be taking Monday and Tuesday off for the holidays. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming on Wednesday. Thanks for reading and happy holidays!
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