Luke Rockhold had just been knocked out, he was gathering himself and being helped to his feet.
Then, Yoel Romero, the man who just sent Rockhold into unconsciousness with punches to his head, came across the cage, parted officials and security and was allowed to speak to Rockhold, put his hands on him and kiss him on the cheek. This was all going on as Rockhold probably should have been being examined by the ringside physician.
The Western Australia Combat Sports Commission (WACSC), a relatively new entity, was panned immediately for allowing that to happen. And Rockhold himself was not real happy about it, he told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.
“For him to come across the cage like that, it’s just ridiculous for them to let him do that,” Rockhold said. “Not a big fan of how he carries himself. He’s a bit fake. I’m not really saying how I feel. I am who I am. Like it or hate it.”
The bout in the main event of UFC 221 was supposed to be for the interim middleweight title. But Romero missed weight by 1.7 pounds the day prior, so he could not win he belt had he beaten Rockhold. However, Rockhold could have.
Weight wasn’t just an issue for Romero, who took the bout on short notice after Robert Whittaker pulled out. Rockhold said he had a difficult weight cut and the WACSC does not use an earlier weigh-in like other commissions do, meaning he had to spend more time dehydrated and have less time to rehydrate.
“Yoel felt strong,” Rockhold said. “He felt big. I didn’t feel my best. … The weight cuts are getting to me these days.”
The knockout happened in the third round. Rockhold, 33, was doing pretty well up until that point. But Romero caught him with a huge punch as he was moving back and then followed up with a brutal left after Rockhold was dropped.
“The man felt like cement,” Rockhold said. “I thought i could really take his movement and force him to wrestle more, but that really wasn’t the case. … I had to work around my kicks. I just didn’t put it together like I should have.”
Rockhold, the former middleweight champion, said he’ll likely move up to light heavyweight now. But the whole experience with Romero seemed to leave a bad taste in his mouth. The California native was already not a fan of Romero, because he failed a USADA drug test in 2016. Romero only received a six-month suspension after tests concluded he had taken a tainted dietary supplement.
“Guess what? He’s the man who opened his mouth and talked shit while I had the title and he went and popped for steroids,” Rockhold said. “So, yeah he got by on that somehow, but f*ck off. You know what you’re putting in your body. I’m tired of people like this just trying to find loopholes and ways around these things.”
Romero didn’t actually test positive for a steroid; it was a substance called Ibutamoren, more in the hormonal family than anabolic. Not that it matters to Rockhold, who also called out Jon Jones and Anderson Silva as performance-enhancing drug users.
“I don’t know why you get a pass in this sport, but a lot of guys get passes,” Rockhold said. “Not a fan of it. I’ve always fought clean, I’ve never cheated my way through this sport, I’ve always done everything the right way. Unfortunately, not everybody follows that path.”