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Morning Report: Luke Rockhold details his knee injury, looking to return against Jacare Souza in February or March

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Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold discussed his injury recovery and plans to return early next year and secure a title shot at the winner of Michael Bisping-Yoel Romero.

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Luke Rockhold is planning on a swift recovery.

A couple of weeks ago a knee injury forced Rockhold to withdraw from his scheduled rematch with Ronaldo Souza this weekend at UFC Fight Night 101 in Melbourne, Australia.  The injury was most inconvenient for Rockhold as the fight was a potential title eliminator bout for UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping's strap. Speaking with Submission Radio recently, Rockhold discussed what happened to his knee, his recovery, and when he expects to return.

"A small bundle pulled off the ACL at the attachment point. I'm trying to go through the natural process of healing which they say there's a high potential of it reconnecting itself... I'm trying to do everything I can to avoid surgery. That's key for me because any time you go into ACL - orthoscopic or reconstruction it's a good 12 months out, pretty much. I've been told potentially in a couple of months it could reattach itself and then I can start kicking again."

This is the fourth time Rockhold has withdrawn from a bout due to injury, and though Rockhold says he's fought injured many times before, the stakes for this fight were so high and his opponent so dangerous, he didn't want to go into battle without one of his best weapons. After all, Rockhold was suffering a similar knee injury when he lost his middleweight title to Bisping in June.

"It's weird because it feels good in so many ways but the moment I kick it feels like my knee is gonna fall apart - if I'm kicking at full power. So I'm just trying to lay off that - not trying to aggravate it - and heal up.

"I tried to working around it and if the kick didn't land flush it really felt like my knee was gonna fall apart. I know I need to show up. This is not the time to go out there and have a half-ass performance. Jacare's no slouch so I knew I needed my left kick the last time around for Jacare, and I knew I needed it this time. It's my biggest weapon and not being able to kick is something I dealt with last time. I tried to avoid kicking and certain things you can't work around leading into a fight."

Rockhold's injury may actually have helped clear the middleweight division up some. Yoel Romero savaged former champion Chris Weidman with a flying knee knockout at UFC 205 and cemented himself as the next challenger for the middleweight belt. Had Rockhold and "Jacare" fought this weekend, the winner would also have had a strong claim to a title shot and led to more backlog. But Rockhold's injury looks like it might set things up nicely for next year.

"Given the time table of what's going on with my potential recovery and Bisping and Yoel Romero probably not fighting until February/March, I think that's a good time frame. If I can get in that frame around March, that would be perfect for me."

Bisping says he won't fight until the spring of 2017 so the winner of a Rockhold-Jacare fight would have a great case for his next fight being against the winner of Bisping-Romero. Then there's also a case to be made for Gegard Mousasi who just avenged his worst loss this past weekend by finishing Uriah Hall impressively in the first round. But Rockhold says he is only interested in a fight that gets him a title shot so he has his eyes on Jacare.

"If I have a guaranteed title shot to fight Mousasi then I'd love to but I'm not looking to fight the next guy - fight Mousai and then have Jacare try to jump me for that shot... I have a lot of respect for Mousasi but I want to get right back at it. I want my title shot...Jacare's the most clear cut way back to the title. I'm not looking to fight another guy and have there be a question mark about who gets the next shot. I'm gonna go straight down the throat. I'm gonna get Jacare, finish my business with Jacare, and make no ifs, ands, or buts who's the next in line to get that shot, whether it's Bisping or Yoel."

Of course a lot of things have to happen for Rockhold to get his wish, not the least of which is his recovery going as planned. Also there's the issue of whether Jacare will wait for Rockhold. With Mousasi winning quickly and without taking much damage, and Jacare being forced out of his fight this weekend due to Rockhold's withdrawal, there's always the possibility the UFC decides to rematch Mousasi and Jacare in a title eliminator and leave Rockhold out in the cold.

But assuming everything does go to plan and he rematches and beats Jacare, Rockhold says he doesn't believe he'll get the chance to rubber match Bisping to reclaim the belt anyway because Rockhold thinks Romero will take the title and become the new champion.

"I think it's a rare, rare opportunity for Bisping to pull it off. Not as rare as beating me, but I think Yoel pretty much goes in there and - it might take a little while - but he'll get to Bisping."

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MUST-READ STORIES

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99. UFC Fight Night 99 results are here.

100. UFC Fight Night 100 results are here.

165. Bellator 165 results are here.

Emperor. Fedor Emelianenko has signed with Bellator and will face Matt Mitrione in February.

Talker. Yoel Romero says Michael Bisping "talks just to talk."

Jiu Jitsu. Demian Maia says he sees weaknesses in both Stephen Thompson and Tyron Woodley.

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MEDIA STEW

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Free fight.

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Bellator highlights.

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Highlights from Lion Fight 33.

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Kovalev 114-113.

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The Menace on what to eat before fighting.

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LISTEN UP

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6th Round.

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MMA Mad.

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TWEETS

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Glad this got resolved.

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I concur (talking about Chandler-Bendo)

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GSP showing a lot of Bellator love over the weekend.

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Shoot your shot I guess.

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Fili got into it over Twitter.

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The 209 meets The MVP #Bellator165 @michaelvenompage UP NEXT on @spiketv!

A photo posted by Bellator MMA (@bellatormma) on 

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That is impressive and probably not super healthy.

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Every time Wand post a pic of him kicking my ass,I'm gonna post one of me kicking him out of the 205 weight class

A photo posted by Quinton Jackson (@rampage4real) on 

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The offending post.

Bom dia do cachorro loco é assim !

A photo posted by Wanderlei Silva (@wandfc) on 

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

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Fedor Emelianenko (36-4, 1 NC) vs. Matt Mitrione (11-5)Bellator 172, February 18.

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TODAY IN MMA HISTORY

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1999: A member of the Gracie family was defeated for the first time in MMA when Kazushi Sakuraba submitted Royler Gracie with a Kimura at Pride 8.

2003: Matt Hughes submitted Frank Trigg with a rear-naked choke for the first time to successfully defend his UFC welterweight championship at UFC 45. This event also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the UFC and inaugurated the first two members of its Hall of Fame, Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie. This also event saw the final UFC appearance of early star Tank Abbot, who was TKO'd by Cabbage Correira and the middleweight debut of Evan Tannerwho stopped Phil Baroni with punches.

2009: Forrest Griffin beat Tito Ortiz for the first time at UFC 106.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

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This weekend was actually quite fun on the fight tip and Chandler-Henderson totally delivered. I'd be totally fine with them running that one back.

Back at it again everyone. Have a good Monday and see you tomorrow.

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If you find something you'd like to see in the Morning Report, just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and let me know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting because we post dope things and you should enjoy them.