Luke Rockhold has lost just once in the last four years, and yet he’s nowhere near a title shot. That’s because the man who beat him 11 months ago, Michael Bisping, is waiting for his next challenge in the form of Georges St-Pierre, and that fight isn’t expected to take place until sometime after October.
Needless to say, the former champion Rockhold — who lost the title to Bisping at UFC 199 last June — doesn’t know his current bearings, especially with Yoel Romero sitting idly as the No. 1 contender and Robert Whittaker fast-emerging behind him.
And it’s frustrating for Rockhold, who appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday a bewildered and deflated fighter who finds himself at wit’s end.
“I don’t know, man,” he told Ariel Helwani when asked about his situation. “You can’t predict anything these days. So, [the UFC is] just chasing to pay off a debt really, is what they’re doing, trying to put these megafights together that don’t make sense. I don’t know. You never know what they’re going to do these days. Who knows.”
Rockhold has been recovering from an injury and splitting time between his usual gym in California, AKA, and training with Henri Hooft in Florida. At 32 years old, Rockhold is still in his prime, yet he can’t seem to get back on track towards a title that has gone on a detour since he lost it. Bisping defended the middleweight title against Dan Henderson at 204 last October, and looks poised to go a year between defenses as he awaits GSP’s timetable for a return.
It’s to the point that Rockhold is fed up with the situation, and is ready to sit out for as long as needed until something is presented to him that feels like a “path” back to the title. He went so far as to say that his fellow contenders in the middleweight division should essentially stand their ground and refuse to fight, too, until some amendments are made.
“If they’re not putting an interim title on the line, or if they’re not making Bisping fight a contender, I’m not fighting anybody,” he said. “And so should the rest of the division, too. What’s the point? Without me, Mousasi, Yoel, and Whittaker? I think everyone should just stand their ground, and say f*ck you. Put a title on the line or else, f*ck, you don’t even have a division.”
Asked if he meant like a middleweight strike, Rockhold smiled.
“I think everyone is already on strike, aren’t they?” he said. “We’re all waiting on a title. Whittaker’s down. I’ve voiced my opinion, and I think Mousasi should stand his ground too. I mean, without us you have no f*cking division. Make something happen.”
Rockhold said that the UFC offered him a fight with Mousasi in July, but right now that fight doesn’t necessarily interest him. Why? Because Mousasi, who is coming off a controversial victory over Chris Weidman at UFC 210 in Buffalo, doesn’t get him any closer to a title shot. Whereas a bout with Whittaker, who knocked out perennial contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in April, moves him towards something.
“I asked for the Whittaker fight,” Rockhold said. “I think that’s a more clear cut, straight path to the title. Mousasi’s coming off…you know he looked good, against Weidman, but there was some controversy at the end. Then you got Whittaker who knocked out Jacare. It’s pretty clear-cut. You go put that guy away, and you don’t have to worry about anybody else trying to jump you.”
Sitting pat in a weight class that’s rife with dissension, Rockhold said it’s up to the UFC to figure things out.
“The ball’s definitely in their court, and I think they know that,” he said. “I think everyone’s not very happy in the situation we’re in right now. I’m sure Yoel’s payment isn’t going to hold him off too long.
“We’ll see. I think everyone needs to step up and make something happen. The middleweights need to step up and hold their ground.”
Before losing to Bisping in what was a short notice fight at UFC 199, Rockhold had won five straight bouts against top middleweights, with all of them ending in finishes. Most recently he defeated Weidman to win the title at UFC 194 in Dec. 2015, dealing the Long Island native his first professional loss. Before then he took out former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and, of course, Bisping.
Nearly a year after losing his title, Rockhold sounded like a man who was fed up with how things were playing out in the UFC.
“They’re forcing us into a corner,” he said. “We got to stick up and stay together and make something happen. I’m tired of this shit, man.”
The one thing that Rockhold reiterated on numerous occasions is that he doesn’t want to take a fight that doesn’t have obvious upward movement. He said that in the new UFC, under the new ownership of WME-IMG, the meritocracy that was in place is now being torn to shreds. And if that’s the case, he said he would be open to pursuing fights outside the promotion.
“I go put on a performance and I beat one of the best guys in the world, I mean, there’s no path to anything, so what’s the f*cking point?” he said. “There’s no point in staying in this division, or f*ck, I mean in this company. If it’s just money fights, I’ll go do that somewhere else.
“I mean, you can let me go from my contract and I’ll go fight big money fights somewhere else. But I’m here in this company to fight the best guys in the world and to win titles. If there’s no path to that, I’m out. Let me go.”
Rockhold’s disdain for the way the Bisping situation is playing out, with all the division’s top contenders in limbo while waiting on St-Pierre to be ready, remains a point of major contention.
“They’re not putting the champion to work, which is pretty ridiculous,” he said. “I mean, are they really going to wait until October to make this Georges St-Pierre fight? I don’t even think anybody’s hyped on this fight anymore.”
Reminded that it could possibly be November before the fight happens, in order for it to occur at Madison Square Garden, Rockhold sighed.
“It’s a joke,” he said. “The company’s kind of losing it these days. What happened to the old company where the best fought the best, and what built this sport? Now it’s just a spectator sport. They’re putting freak shows together.”