Luke Rockhold isn't satisfied. Fresh off of his second successful Strikeforce middleweight title defense over Tim Kennedy this past Saturday, Rockhold is unhappy with how things are. Or maybe he just know how much better they could be.
There's the issue of poor media coverage of Strikeforce fights. As he told Ariel Helwani Monday on The MMA Hour, he believes only two reporters attended the post-fight presser late Saturday evening.
Then there's 'the list' - a reported roster of Strikeforce fighters who are unable to compete for the UFC even when their Strikeforce contracts expire - something Showtime President Stephen Espinoza denies exists. Rockhold isn't sure about the terms or if there's even a list, but he'd be lying if he said he hadn't heard of it. Either way, he knows fighting Anderson Silva or the UFC's best isn't happening probably ever and certainly not soon.
There's also his estimation of his performance against Kennedy, which he describes as adequate in some respects, but ultimately a poor facsimile of what he's capable of in the American Kickboxing Academy gym.
That's probably why before he goes any further, he wants to go back. Specifically, Rockhold told Helwani a rematch with Ronaldo Souza should be next on his agenda. "I think he's the most logical opponent out there," Rockhold said.
And why Jacare? For starters, there isn't a huge roster of fighters to pick from, but more importantly, Rockhold believes there is something unresolved between them that needs to be set right before he can take on another chalenge. "I think that fight needs some closure," he said. "It was a close fight and I think he's the best out there right now. I want to fight the best, like I've always said. I'd like to put an ending to that fight. I think I can."
While Rockhold may personally feel there's something to answer in a rematch with the jiu-jitsu great, are other people really clamoring to see that fight again?
"100 percent," Rockhold contended. "People talk freakin' crap to me on Twitter all the time. When they come directly at you it's hard to not see it sometimes, but there's definitely some people. I don't know, I thought it was fairly close. I think I can do a lot better."
Before Jacare can tangle with Rockhold again he must first get through Derek Brunson, a fighter Rockhold routinely mocks for his participation as a cheerleader at University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Jacare squares off against Brunson at Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman in August.
Even if Jacare gets by Brunson, Rockhold also expressed interest - as a fan - in seeing Souza face off with the newest entry in the Strikeforce middleweight division: Roger Gracie. Personally, I think the MMA world needs to see Roger Gracie vs. Jacare in a MMA fight," Rockhold suggested. "That's a given. The first I heard about Roger coming down [to middleweight], that's the first thing that came to mind. I think that'd be great."
What direction Strikeforce decides to go in remains unclear. The animosity between Rockhold and Brunson might make for an easier fight to sell, but Rockhold could barely utter Brunson's name when talking to Helwani much less view him as a credible challenge.
As far as the champion is concerned, there are other middleweights far higher up the ladder - "Lorenz Larkin looked good. Roger [Gracie] looked alright. Maybe they could fight each other and see who is number one" - who potentially deserve a title shot even if Jacare falls short next month.
While Strikeforce decides to take the champion's matchmaking suggestions or not, he's interested in presenting the version of himself audiences apparently have not seen. What Rockhold appears to be looking for isn't just a great opponent but an opportunity: a chance to showcase the AKA gym Rockhold, not the Showtime Rockhold.
Sure, he's winning, but he's not winning like he could be. That's partly why Rockhold's not happy. What's the point in fighting if you can't be your best? A second crack at Jacare is a chance to win again, but also an opportunity to doi it the right way - the way he believes he wins in the gym - for the first time.