Luke Rockhold had a lot of reasons to step away from the UFC when he nearly ended his fighting career in late 2019.
A litany of injuries had started to pile up on the former middleweight champion and more than anything he just needed a break to get away from the sport while experiencing something else other than fighting.
Considering almost his entire adult life has been spent competing at the highest levels of the sport between title runs in both the UFC and Strikeforce, Rockhold just needed a break and the past year off has given him that.
“I wanted time to be able to do things I haven’t been able to do and travel and not have any barriers of training camp and all these things,” Rockhold explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “It’s getting around, traveling, doing a lot. I’ve been getting out to Montana, out to places that aren’t so crowded, a little more free wheeling to say the least. Enjoying life.
“Doing things, traveling, the things I wasn’t able to do. Letting my body heal up, too. I was compromising myself so much the past few years. I opted to get a shoulder surgery and fix my labrum and my rotator cuff that was kind of nagging at me for a while.”
The time off allowed Rockhold to wrap his head around something other than a training camp or an upcoming fight, which was a much needed break that actually allowed him to realize how much he missed the sport.
“Fifteen years of continually fighting the best guys in the world, it’s a lot on your shoulders,” Rockhold said. “It’s just nice to get away and focus on other things and there will be a life after fighting. Aligning myself with certain things that make me happy outside.
“There’s a lot that goes into it. Time definitely does heal all wounds.”
He also admits thanks to the coronavirus pandemic forcing a dramatic shift in the day-to-day routines of just about every person on Earth, Rockhold just needs some excitement in his life.
Returning to the UFC will allow him that.
“The world’s f**king boring,” Rockhold said. “I need some more excitement. Kind of really comes down to that. Options are limited and I do miss fighting.
“Fighting is a part of me, and I still have a lot left in me, and the world’s f**king boring and I need something more.”
Right now there’s no exact timeline for Rockhold to return because he’s still allowing his body to finish healing before putting himself through the stress of a full training camp.
That said, he’s definitely feeling better and better with each passing day and he was even able to contribute to longtime friend and teammate Daniel Cormier’s final training camp before his most recent fight against Stipe Miocic at UFC 252.
“I’m getting there,” Rockhold said. “My shoulder’s coming around. I opted to do this shoulder surgery. I had an opportunity to get that done during COVID. Coming around that and everything else is feeling pretty good. Just letting the hands and the wrist and all that [without the] impact of continually punching and cracking and missing. It’s nice.
“Everything’s coming back together. It’s motivating seeing the current climate of what’s going on out there. I think it needs a little push, it needs some excitement itself.”
As of now, Rockhold isn’t ready to fully commit to a weight class, although he says he is “better suited” for middleweight despite a tougher cut to get down to 185 pounds.
Before making those decisions, Rockhold just wants to work himself back into fight shape and it won’t be long before he’s serving notice to the best fighters in the UFC that he’s officially back.
“I feel being healthy and with a clear mind with nothing on my shoulders, I’m a problem for every one of these guys,” Rockhold said.
According to Rockhold, his comeback isn’t happening with any set parameters regarding specific goals, which means he’s not calling out any champions at this point. More than anything, Rockhold just knows deep down that when he’s at his absolute best, it’s going to be awfully difficult to beat him.
“I’m not done. I don’t feel like I’m done,” Rockhold said. “I feel like I have a lot more in me. I enjoy fighting. When I’m in the gym, I’m still the best motherf**ker there.
“It’s about fighting, stepping into that cage with a clear head and healthy body and taking out whoever’s in front of me.”