UFC middleweight Luke Rockhold has his hands full at the moment. The AKA-product is set to face Tim Boetsch on Saturday on the main card of UFC 172 in Baltimore, Maryland, but it's not just mixed martial arts competition Rockhold has his eye on.
In 2013, Rockhold, who was won previous International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) titles at blue and purple belt, competed at the world championships, only to be disqualified for a rule violation known as 'knee reaping', a rule controversial even among grapplers for its dubious value and inconsistent application.
"I learned my lesson," Rockhold said at the UFC 172 Ultimate Media Day on Wednesday. "The rules. There's just too many rules in jiu-jitsu these days. I believe I got screwed.
"I got DQ'd once, but I got a takedown, they didn't give me my takedown, so I had to kind of rush for points. This guy was stalling and so I gave up a sweep to try to get a submission and I fell behind. Then I had to force a submission. I went down to Brazil in 2006 for the worlds and that was a really bad situation. Imagine how gringo'd you get out there. It's bad enough here in the States, too. I competed a long time in jiu-jitsu and I'm past those matches."
The experience has compelled Rockhold to not seek another try at a world jiu-jitsu title, even though the IBJJF World Championships are in May near his hometown in Sacramento, California.
That doesn't mean, however, Rockhold has put his days of jiu-jitsu competition completely behind him. Rockhold, a black belt under world champion Leo Vieira, still wants to face the best in the world, but this time under more tailored criteria.
"You know the thing I'd be open to? It'd be like a no gi super match or something like that. Maybe like a Metamoris, as long as there's some money on the line.
"I got an idea for Metamoris," Rockhold continued. "I believe I'm one of the best American jiu-jitsu guys out there. Keenan Cornelius has proved to be one of the best, too. Let's have a square off and see who has the best American jiu-jitsu. No gi. Metamoris. Keenan."
Cornelius, a black belt under Andre Galvao since late 2013, competed recently at Metamoris 3, where he submitted via heel hook Strikeforce and The Ultimate Fighter veteran Kevin Casey. Cornelius is known for his dominant run at brown belt and achieving the 'double grand slam' at purple belt, which is winning his specific weight division and the absolute division in the four major IBJJF tournaments in a calendar year: the Pan-Ams, Mundials, European Open and Brasileiros.
Rockhold and Cornerlius are approximately the same weight with Rockhold competing in MMA by cutting to 185 pounds and Cornelius most recently at 94kg, or 207 pounds, for the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championships this month.
As eager as he is for the challenge, however, Rockhold is insistent that any match with Cornelius would have to take place under the appropriate conditions: for pay and without the gi involved.
"I don't train in the gi anymore," he said. "I'm pretty good in the gi, but we gotta even the tables out. The kid trains jiu-jitsu everyday."