Luke Rockhold is finally going to return to UFC octagon this year, but just because he’s back, it doesn’t mean the everything is all sunshine and roses with the organization.
Over the past few years, Rockhold has been one of the more outspoken fighters about the UFC, with the former middleweight champion frequently butting heads with the promotion and Dana White over issues of fighter pay and control. Earlier this year, Rockhold even called White “a tyrant” who uses “mafioso tactics” in their negotiations and with the recent way the UFC has handled heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou - creating an interim title belt despite Ngannou having won the the championship in March - Rockhold isn’t walking back anything he said.
“Guys like Francis Ngannou are getting shelved for asking for his worth, and they’re creating interim titles, which is all bullsh*t,” Rockhold told MMAJunkie Radio. “I mean, this is the type of sh*t you have to deal with. I’m not always here for it. I’m not gonna be here for it. I’m gonna speak my mind exactly how I want, say what I want to say and what I feel. Like it or not, I’m f*cking here and I’m f*cking gonna respect myself publicly. I’m not gonna disrespect myself, which is what a lot of people do, which is the common narrative with the UFC and what Dana White has created – to shut down fighters and criticize champions, and they’re shelving these guys.
“The narrative that they’ve created is for the fans to want to hate on fighters, and it’s just bullsh*t. You’ve got to go out there, respect yourself, and get paid. This is the f*cking fight game. We’re the fighters, we’re the entertainment, we deserve our worth.”
Fighter pay and the UFC’s business practices have been a topic of constant conversation in the MMA community this year, with several notable fighters speaking out about it. The discussions has become so omnipresent that Dana White even addressed the topic, essentially saying, “tough cookies”. Given Rockhold’s rocky history with the promotion and White’s hardline stance against paying the fighters more, it seems possible that the former middleweight champion might move on to greener pastures soon, a possibility which Rockhold is leaving open.
“I think there’s more light to it now, with everything else and all these promotions and the money and the backings that they have,” Rockhold said. “I’d never close the door on anything. The paychecks are great elsewhere. UFC is not always the best option anymore. There’s a few guys at the top but you’re still entering a big battle with (the UFC) that it’s just not really exactly a fair playing field.”
That’s putting the cart ahead of the horse for now though as Rockhold is still under UFC contract and recently signed on to face rising contender Sean Strickland at UFC 268, which takes place Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden. It will be Rockhold’s first fight since July 6, 2019 when he was knocked out by Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239.
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