This past weekend at UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Reis, Robert Whittaker shook up the UFC middleweight division by knocking out third-ranked contender Ronaldo Souza and throwing his name into the hat of the very backlogged 185-pound weight class. And though Whittaker was impressive in his coming out party, the reality is that he isn’t closer to a middleweight title shot than anyone else because current champion Michael Bisping is set for a title defense with unranked Georges St-Pierre at some point in the future. The UFC’s willingness to abandon all semblance of meritocracy in the division has irritated most of the top contenders, but with no viable recourse available to them, those fighters are left with one other option: fight among themselves for hopes and dreams.
Enter former champion Luke Rockhold. After Whittaker’s showcase on Saturday, Rockhold was quick to throw out a potential matchup with the surging contender, telling Ariel Helwani that he’d love to make that fight at UFC 213 on July 8th. Still celebrating his win, Whittaker declined to comment on the fight but, speaking with Submission Radio recently, Rockhold says he’s still keen on fighting the man affectionately referred to as “Bobby Knuckles” by hardcore fans.
“How about Bobby Knuckles. Boy is looking good. You Aussie’s got something to believe in right now. He’s looking fresh, looking tight, and I think we make a lot of sense right now. The kid wants to get his title shot; there’s a long list of guys in line right now and I’m looking to get back at it so I don’t see anything better. I appreciate the competition. I like what the kid’s done and I want to test him, I want to test myself and get back at it.”
Rockhold was supposed to rematch Souza at the end of last year but a knee injury forced him to withdraw from the bout. Now that he’s fully recovered though, Rockhold is chomping at the bit to get back into action but he only wants to face a guy who can get him in the title picture. And with everyone else not interested in the fight, Rockhold says Whittaker is basically the only option left.
“I’ve been looking for a fight between all these guys. I’m not necessarily calling him out, we’re running out of opponents. Anderson Silva declined to fight. Other guys are out of the mix. Yoel’s waiting for an interim title or the real title. I need to reestablish myself and he looked good so. . .”
The other option Rockhold is interested in, but doesn’t consider likely, is a fight with No. 1 contender Yoel Romero. Rockhold say’s he would love to take the fight but he thinks Romero is only going to fight if a belt is on the line and Rockhold doesn’t think the UFC will make an interim middleweight title. But if they do, Rockhold says he’s in.
“Romero wants that interim title, I know that for a fact and he’s not going to fight anybody else so if that comes to be, I’d gladly fight Yoel. That’s one and two. One and two should fight for it, if that’s the case. The champion should fight one but if one and two are fighting, it should be an interim title, a guarantee that we’re gonna fight for the title next.”
Interim titles have been the focus of a lot of discussion among MMA fans and media lately, with many arguing that the UFC’s willingness to create titles for division with active champions already in them devalues the product as a whole. But in Rockhold’s mind, the UFC is already doing that very thing by capitulating to the whims of Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping, saying that waiting until September to have Bisping defend his belt, almost an entire calendar year, is “a joke” with a division as stacked as middleweight. In Rockhold’s opinion, they should make Bisping fight Romero and if they don’t do that, then an interim title would, paradoxically, bring back some semblance of sporting merit to the proceedings.
“I’m a fan of it. People want to run their mouths and say what they will about an interim title but it guarantees you have a title shot. You put yourself in line. If they’re gonna hold everything hostage the way they are with no telling what’s gonna happen with the winners - these guys, if they win a fight, you never know what they’re gonna say. What is GSP gonna do when he wins the title? Is he gonna want to fight Conor McGregor for the middleweight title?
“The best fight the best. That’s what made this company what it is and they need to get back to it.”
Rebrand. WSOF has been rebranded into Professional Fighters League, with its first season coming next year.
Salary. This new league says that it will pay fighters monthly.
Viral. Sabina Mazo reflects on her awesome head kick knockout at LFA 9.
Garbrandt talking about the dust up.
Dana on Cowherd.
Cody on TMZ.
Dana on TMZ.
Lauzon’s video blog.
Jack Slack. Jack Slack does alternate commentary of Smolka-Elliott.
Bushido Talk. Bushido talks about towelgate again.
Heavy Hands. Connor and Pat talk about Mighty Mouse and Bobby Knux.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
It’s been a year since Conor retired. Crazy.
I'm thankful for the cheese.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 19, 2017
And yesterday, Miguel Torres has retired.
As i sit here on the mat in my academy contemplating my life and all of the possibilities that can manifest from... https://t.co/ZiYgWiqXCt— Miguel Angel Torres (@MiguelTorresMMA) April 20, 2017
Cody ready to release the video.
Faber going in.
Sad to see my former friend @tjdillashaw lie about me on national television to save his reputation. He knows there was no ultimatum he got lured by money And @ludwigmartialarts your welcome for employing you for 1 year and 3 months of the 14 yr existence of @teamalphamalemma, a team built with some of my closest friends with blood sweat and tears. And thanks Duane for trying warn me about TJ being sold off once he won the belt (see the text on 3rd slide). Thank u @thenotoriousmma for seeing the future Thank u @cody_nolove for being a real champion inside and outside of the octagon Thank u to @studshowradio for the best podcast ever (kinda ) My coaching staff that is the best in the world @justinbuchholz_ @holdsworthmma @lastcall155 @dustinakbari @fabiopradobjj @masterthong916 @joey_rodriguez916
This show has been on one day and they are already heated.
An MMA classic.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2013: Ben Henderson successfully retained his lightweight title by winning a controversial split decision over Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox 7. In the co-main event that evening, Daniel Cormier made his UFC debut, winning a unanimous decision over Frank Mir.
Rockhold really, really messed up when he got knocked out by Bisping. Think of how much better the middleweight division would be (or had Weidman not pulled out I guess). Rockhold fights Romero. Weidman and Jacare fight for a No. 1 contender spot, Whittaker and Mousasi fight to put themselves in line, Bisping finally fights Nick Diaz in the most logical fight that has never happened, and GSP returns to fight Anderson instead of this inanity.
Anyway, that’s all folks. Enjoy and Conor bless.
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 it.