He may have lost his belt to Michael Bisping at UFC 199, but former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold's career is still on the uptick. The California-based fighter has expanded his horizons a bit since that fight in early June, rolling out a business called Grapes that just launched, and also "dabbling in a different market."
That market is the world of modeling, which Rockhold was in New York for on Monday for business dealings to do with Fashion Week. The new sideline pursuit was something he said he’s been in discussions to do since before UFC 199, and his potential income as a model, could end up being better than what he makes as a fighter.
Rockhold was an in-studio guest on The MMA Hour on Monday, and he said that the seven-figure potential was one of the reasons he could afford to wait for the right fight offer to come along before jumping in the Octagon again.
"I definitely want to fight, and I want to get back to that title and get my shot," Rockhold said. "So, it’s about making the right move next, and making it worth my while. I’m not going to just go out there and put my body on the line when I can get paid that much more in this world [modeling]. So, if they make it worth my while, I’d love to come back. This is what I love to do — I love to fight. But, it’s got to make sense."
The 31-year-old Rockhold had won five straight fights heading into UFC 199, which was supposed to be a rematch against Chris Weidman, whom he’d beat at UFC 194. When Weidman injured himself just a couple of weeks before the fight, Bisping stepped in and scored an upset knockout over Rockhold.
Rockhold, who said he still has a contract for several more fights, has used his time away to advantage as an entrepreneur, and said that he has done his best to move on from the Bisping loss.
"You got to get over it," he said. "That’s the sport. I let my guard down, I prepared foolishly and I went in there with a bad mindset and I paid for it. I’ll pick myself up, I’ll rebuild myself as I always have and I’ll do what I need to do. I know what I’m capable of I just need to go out and fight with the mindset that got me here. And you can’t take anybody for granted. It was a mistake, and it won’t happen again."
Rockhold said he has some "big contracts" he’s working on in New York with the "top two brands" in the industry. He didn’t divulge much else on that front, but made it clear that it was lucrative enough to make him patient about jumping back in the Octagon. He also said that he wasn’t having any problems with the UFC, that business is just business.
"I have a good relationship with the UFC for sure," he said. "It’s just, they’re always going to…it’s business, they’re going to make things to their advantage, of course. Try to take advantage of certain things and put you in a place and do what they can. That’s business, that’s how it is. And guess what, I’ve got my own business on the side and I can stand my ground too. I can take some time off."
Rockhold, who trains primarily out of the American Kickboxing Academy with Daniel Cormier in San Jose, California, was quick to distinguish his interests in the pursuit of "stacking cash."
"I’m a fighter at heart, but I’m here to get paid, so if there’s more potential [in modeling], I’ll take it," he said. "And we’re talking big numbers, so I could laugh and let my body heal and wait for the time’s right to come back and fight when it makes sense."
When asked if November would be a good time for his return to action, when the UFC visits Madison Square Garden for the first time at UFC 205, he said that would be great.
"But at the same time, if I’m going to go put my body [on the line], and put off deals in [the modeling] world, it’s got to make sense in my world," he said. "If I’m going to put down deals that are worth more than I’m fighting for and I’m avoiding a shoot or something I need to do, it just doesn’t make sense. I’m going to go beat my body down and put myself through hell. I love the reward at the end, but the reward’s got to be worth it."
Told that there were whisperings of the UFC doing a middleweight tournament at MSG — featuring him, Weidman, Yoel Romero and "Jacare" Souza — to settle up the contenders while Dan Henderson and Bisping fight for the title, Rockhold said he was down.
So long as the offer is right.
"There’s potential in that," he said. "I feel like, let’s make it worth my while."
When asked if he felt like he was underpaid by the UFC, Rockhold thought about his words carefully.
"Yeah, yeah," he said, though he admitted that he "made some pretty good money" as a champion.
"This year's been a pretty damn good year."