Former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold’s days at 185 pounds are no more.
The American Kickboxing Academy product had been hinting for months about jumping up to the light heavyweight division. But after several injuries forced him to watch from the sideline for much of 2018, Rockhold decided the time was now to make the move to 205 pounds.
As for when and who he expects to welcome him into his new division, Rockhold admits the top of the rankings are already murky enough, but he doesn’t expect many challenges on his way to what he feels is an inevitable matchup with champion Jon Jones.
“I was shooting for late March, but we’re looking like early April now,” Rockhold told Luke Thomas during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “It just depends on what opponents fall where they may. I know Jon really wanted another fight really quick, for some reason. So he got this Anthony Smith fight [at UFC 235], so we’ll see.
“I know a couple of the other top guys are matched up. I think Thiago Santos and Jan Blachowicz [are matched up]. Corey Anderson looked decent the other night [at UFC 232] too. I’m lookin for a top guy.”
Declaring the light heavyweight division as “there for the taking,” Rockhold could only laugh at what he perceives as an easy path to the title compared to middleweight.
“Anthony Smith just got a title shot,” mocked Rockhold. “He couldn’t sniff a top 10 at middleweight... [Smith’s fight against Jones] will be over in the less than a round. That’s why I don’t understand why they made this fight.”
As for how he views the rest of the fighters in his new weight class, Rockhold didn’t mince words.
“[Anderson] could last a few rounds maybe [against Jones],” said Rockhold. “I think Jan is probably one the toughest guys there. Just a tough durable guy. Not very skilled in so many ways, but durable.”
One name Rockhold left out is three-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson, who came up short against Jones in their title fight at UFC 232 last month. Thinking, Rockhold gave Gustafsson credit for being a game opponent, but admitted he was still hoping for a matchup against a man who could propel him closer to the top, rather than someone who just lost to the champ.
“Alex is decent,” said Rockhold. “He obviously has some holes in his game on the ground. So, we’ll see where it lies. We’ll see where he falls back in and what the UFC wants to do. Obviously, I want to fight a guy on his way to the title and make a statement. But, it just depends on what falls. There’s a few options. We’re talking to the UFC and we’ll see. We’ll see what falls on the right date. I’m looking for one fight to put me where I need to be.”