Strikeforce: Champions is no longer an accurate title for the Jan. 12 show after Luke Rockhold's unhealed wrist injury robbed the card of another belt-holder, leaving only Nate Marquardt defending an actual championship. His inability to make that date infuriated his challenger, Lorenz Larkin, who after hearing about it, accused Rockhold of a cardinal sin in fighting: cowardice.
Meanwhile, there were others who thought the timing of Rockhold's withdrawal from the proposed fight was suspect for other reasons, assuming that he pulled out in order to ensure that he can sooner debut in the UFC after Strikeforce officially closes up shop following the January show.
On Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, the 28-year-old champion shot down both theories, saying that his lingering wrist issues are at the root of his decision.
"I would never duck anybody in the whole world," he said. "Trust me, I'm not scared to fight anybody. The fact is, I can’t train. I haven't been able to train for this fight and I'm not going to fight people one-handed."
The ligament injury does not allow him to grip or punch.
Rockhold said that he's done everything possible to expedite the healing process. He wore a cast for three weeks, took a series of cortisone shots, and underwent platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment. In the end, the wrist simply wasn't ready in time to offer him a full training camp.
Larkin's insinuations bothered Rockhold, mostly because he feels he is not being taken at his word for a serious injury despite having fought legitimate competition in the past. If it's any consolation to Larkin, Rockhold said that he hopes the fight is made in the future, whether it's in Strikeforce or the UFC.
"I’d fight Lorenz Larkin any day, trust me," he said. "In my mind, that’s easy money. I want to fight … I'm not trying to push my way into UFC like this. I want money. I'm watching my bank account go down, and I want to build it back up, so as soon as I can, I want to start fighting."
Rockhold said that he feels his wrist improving and that he may undergo another series of PRP treatments to speed up the timeline. He hopes to be ready to fight around the end of March 2013.
He did sympathize with Larkin saying, "I imagine it doesn't feel good to be in his situation, but what can I do?" But that's where the shared feelings ended, with Rockhold welcoming a Larkin matchup while turning the tables.
"It does piss me off," he said. "You're saying I’m mentally weak or something like that? When I have ever shown signs of mental weakness in any of my fights? He might be 13-0 but we all heard him crying in his fight against [King] Mo [Lawal] the fight before last. I heard moans and cries. There's no point in coming at me, telling me I'm mentally weak and I'm reluctant to fight you. The guy needs to know his place. I think I’ve proved myself over the years. I'm ready to throw down with anybody."
As for the possibility of his UFC future, Rockhold is trying to stay even-keel about things for now. He's heard these types of rumors before and so far, nothing has worked out. But it certainly crosses his mind from time to time, as Rockhold anticipates the possibilities of testing himself against the established names of the UFC's middleweight division.
But first things first.
"Right now I’m kind of high on Lorenz Larkin," he said. "Smash him, shut his mouth. I'd love to silence that and get that behind me. That'd be nice, otherwise any top five opponent. I'd like to fight any of those guys. I think I could do really well."