With the top of the UFC middleweight division stuck at a standstill, former champion Luke Rockhold took it upon himself to get something going earlier this month when he called for the four highest-ranked contenders — he, Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, and Gegard Mousasi — to sit out until the UFC implemented an interim title to give a sense of direction to the division while it awaited a yet-to-be-scheduled fight between UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre.
Since then, the status of the Bisping-GSP fight has grown even more uncertain, with UFC president Dana White publicly expressing his desire to move on rather than wait on St-Pierre until the fall. But White also took it upon himself to fire back at Rockhold unprompted on Saturday when asked about Demian Maia’s potential title shot after UFC 211.
“Listen, I was thinking about this when I talked to some of the media here yesterday,” White said at the UFC 211 post-fight press conference. “There was a lot of guys talking about ‘deserve, deserve.’ Nobody deserves anything. You’ve got to earn it here. It’s like these guys want to sit around — you’ve got Rockhold right now screaming ‘I deserve this.’ You just got knocked out in the first round. You don’t deserve anything. You’ve got to come back and earn it.”
White brought up Rockhold’s name of his own volition — he was asked a question about Maia’s rocky history with promised UFC title shots. And it didn’t take long for Rockhold to respond to White.
Check out what the former UFC middleweight champion said Tuesday on Twitter below.
@danawhite I never said I deserved a title shot. I said we (middleweights) deserve clarity. We deserve something to fight for.— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) May 16, 2017
@danawhite "You have to earn your way in this company"? Tell me how did GSP earn a middleweight title shot? Think before you run your mouth— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) May 16, 2017
Rockhold (15-3), the last Strikeforce middleweight champion, won five fights in a row via stoppage over Costas Philippou, Tim Boetsch, Bisping, Lyoto Machida, and Chris Weidman to rise to the top of the UFC’s 185-pound division and capture the UFC title in Dec. 2015. He then lost a short-notice rematch to Bisping via first-round knockout in his inaugural title defense last June at UFC 199. The 32-year-old contender has not competed since.
Update: White recently responded on Twitter.