Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold appeared recently on Submission Radio for a wide-ranging interview. Early this month Rockhold withdrew due to a knee injury from a potential #1 contender fight with Jacare Souza, and detailed his treatment to date.
“I’ve had quite a few assessments of the knee from different doctors,” said Rockhold. “Just a small bundle is pulled off the ACL detachment point. So I’m trying to go through the natural process of healing, which they say has a high potential of it reconnecting itself. And so I’ve done two series of PRP shots. I’ll probably do a third and I might do some stem cells again. I’m trying to do everything I can to avoid surgery because that’s the key for me. With the ACL, anytime you go with the ACL, orthoscopic or reconstruction, it’s a good 12 months to a year out, pretty much from everything. So I’m told potentially in a couple of months it could reattach itself and then I can start kicking again. It’s weird cause it feels good in so many ways, but the moment I kick, it feels like my knee’s gonna fall apart if I’m kicking at full power. So I’m just trying to lay off that, not trying to aggravate it and heal up.”
“I tried to work around it for a week or so, and then I knew it was time to test it. I tried working around it, and if the kick didn’t land flush, it would really feel like my knee was gonna fall apart. So I know I needed to show up. This is not a time to go out there and have a half-assed performance, and Jacare is no slouch. So I know I needed my left kick last time around with Jacare and I know I need it this time. But my biggest weapon and not being able to kick is something I kind of dealt with last time. I tried to avoid kicking, and it’s the kind of thing you can’t work around leading into a fight. I’ve definitely fought with a lot of injuries, but this is something I couldn’t f*** with. So I’m gonna get healed up and do what I can have to do, work my way back, just take my time.”
“Given the timetable of what’s going on with my potential recovery and Bisping and Yoel Romero fighting probably not till, you know, February, March, I think that’s a good timeframe. If I can get in that frame in March, that would be perfect for me. Jacare is the most clear-cut way back to the title. I’m not looking to fight another guy and then have a question mark who gets the next shot. I’m gonna go straight down the throat. I wanna get Jacare, finish my business and make no ifs and or buts who’s the next in like to get that shot, whether it’s Bisping or Yoel.”
“[Romero] had some decent performances and Yoel is always dangerous. You can’t force, you can’t rush a fight with Yoel. I knew that and that’s why I wanted to fight him in a five-round fight. Weidman started forcing the issue in the third round, knowing he was potentially in a one-one scenario and he paid for it. Yoel is a very explosive guy and he kept baiting in for that flying knee. [Weidman] actually was going in for the takedown, so obviously I think Yoel started timing it and I think his corner must have called for it or something, but that was pretty brutal shot. But it was what it was.”
“I don’t mind Weidman that much. He’s a nice guy, he’s a harmless individual, really. For him to take two losses in that fashion is pretty tough to see for anyone. I don’t wish no harm on the guy. But yeah, campaigning for that fight in New York for as long as he did and putting it on the line and to lose in the fashion must be tough.”
Rockhold thinks that Bisping won a fluke, and defended the title successfully on a gift, but believes the luck runs out with Yoel Romero.
“I think it’s a rare, rare opportunity for Bisping to pull it off – about as rare as when he beat me,” said Rockhold. “I think Yoel pretty much goes in there and it might take a little while, but he’ll get to Bisping sure enough. I believe Bisping is a tough individual. He’s going to go in there and he’s the more technical striker and Yoel’s pretty raw, but I think with the takedown opportunities, that he’ll start to throw Bisping around it would start changing the pace of the fight.”
Rockhold also made the case for his AKA teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov getting a title shot.t’s obvious, he deserves the title shot. The kid, I mean what is he now, 24-0? It’s ridiculous what’s he done and everything and all respect to McGregor. The guy is legendary, his left hand is just second to none and his ability to finish is pretty much not in question. But to say that he’s (Nurmagomedov) not active
“It’s obvious, he deserves the title shot,” said Rockhold. The kid, I mean what is he now, 24-0? It’s ridiculous what’s he done and everything and all respect to McGregor. The guy is legendary, his left hand is just second to none and his ability to finish is pretty much not in question. But to say that [Nurmagomedov] is not active enough is not fair. It’s not fair to Khabib, it’s not fair to the MMA world. You need to fight the best guys. Khabib has proven himself over and over again. He is the one. If you’re going to go out there and do it – the UFC can’t make McGregor do anything, it’s going to be McGregor’s choice. So he’s gotta accept that and make that fight – you know, the war of the world’s kind of thing go down. The Irish versus the Russians. Khabib built it up quite well, he built it up quite well. I’m not gonna lie, kid’s getting well with his mouth.”
“McGregor’s dangerous. Khabib can’t stay on the feet like he did with Johnson. I’ve never seen a left hand like that. He can just touch guys and they wobble. Khabib is unlike anybody else I’ve ever grappled with – a 155-pound man that can grapple with me and give me competition, I don’t see that. I haven’t seen that anywhere, and I know what’s gonna be like. If Khabib gets hold of anybody, it’s over. And it’s that one shot, you know, it’s that striker verse grappler game. If Khabib gets a hold of McGregor, I don’t think he’s going to last at all. But at the same time, McGregor you can’t give him that opportunity on the feet. So we’ll see.”
“We’ll see if the fight takes place. They seemingly are trying to work their way around it, but really, I think it’s a fight that should happen.”
Another possibility for McGregor is UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
“I think it’s an intriguing match up, no doubt,” said Rockhold. “We’ll see what comes and how they make that. [McGregor] is still dangerous. He’s dangerous to that division too. If anybody can strike that well and it seems like his power can translate over divisions pretty well. I think Tyron is not the biggest guy at 170. Obviously, he’s proven to have some trouble in the striking realm with a guy like Wonderboy, so McGregor’s gonna be in the same realm.”
UFC Fight Night 10 on November 27, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia is headlined by #7 middleweight contender Robert Whittaker vs #8 Derek Brunson.
“I think [Whittaker] definitely can beat Brunson,” said Rockhold. “I think it’s a good match up on both ways. I think Brunson is very dangerous. We’ll see. We’ll see who’s the next guy to potentially jump into that realm of the top five guys that we got. So I like a new prospect. They’re both solid prospects and we’ll see. We’ll see what comes of it.”
“I’m curious to see what kind of fight this is. If Brunson tries to stand a little bit more, I think he tries to expose the wrestling and put the whole arsenal on him, which I don’t believe Whittaker has really faced yet – a guy that can wrestle that good and can strike too. So this is the next level for both of them.”