Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold hasn’t done anything close to mincing words about his opinion of the current state of the UFC under new owners Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG).
He’s been especially critical of the company’s handling of the title picture in his 185-pound division. After he was shockingly upset by Michael Bisping at UFC 199 in June 2016, the promotion let “The Count” make his only title defense against retiring then No. 14-ranked Dan Henderson before taking more than a year off waiting to fight former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who had never fought at 185 pounds in his lengthy career.
‘GSP’ won the title from Bisping with a strong performance at November 4’s UFC 217, but then seemed to waffle on his previous promise that he would unify the titles with interim champion Robert Whittaker in his subsequent bout. Now he’s on the sidelines dealing with colitis and could be out for an undetermined amount of time.
Rockhold has long been a vocal opponent of St-Pierre’s foray into his division, and now he’s ramping up his criticism. Speaking to Ariel Helwani on today’s episode of The MMA Hour, Rockhold said he believes it time for St-Pierre to admit he doesn’t want to fight at 185 pounds in order to let the stagnating weight class move on:
“The fact is, come out and say that you don’t want to fight here in the division and relinquish the title and move on. Stop just, I’m tired of story after story and him dragging us on and you know, leaving us in the dark. Just state what it is. If you’re sick, you’re sick, but the fact is that you don’t want to fight in the division. I mean, he’s done his thing; he’s a legend, whatever. Just move on.
“Let us move on. Let’s fight. I’m ready to fight if it makes sense. I’m not just gonna fight fights to fight, to get nowhere.”
As for his own next move, Rockhold, who just got back into the win column against former WSOF two-division champ David Branch in September following a year and three months off, said he’s gunning for only one bout – a title shot against the man whom he believes to be the real middleweight champion in Whittaker. Anything else, he said, just isn’t worth his time:
“There’s been talks all along the way about potential this, potential that. They gotta make backup plans. They’re trying to make fights like Yoel Romero right now. Why would I fight Yoel Romero when there’s no clear-cut person fighting Whittaker? Obviously I want to fight for the title, and if that’s available, I’m not gonna sign any fuckin’ fight. I wanna fight for the title, and if that’s available, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
With offers of a so-called number one contender fight being pushed his way, Rockhold scoffed at those flimsy prospects by legitimately questioning what such a bout was worth when St-Pierre didn’t even need to win one himself after never fighting in the division his whole career.
The former champ framed his disgruntled attitude with the UFC by focusing on the recent reports that they had offered Nate Diaz a welterweight title shot, which he believed to be absolutely ludicrous given that many top fighters had spent their lives preparing to actually deserve it.
Overall, the state of the UFC is making him mad, and he believes they need to formulate a realistic way to grant title shots by moving back to what made the UFC and MMA as a whole great in the first place:
“And don’t try to make me fight fights, when you’re telling me, what’s a number one contender fight these days? Did Georges St-Pierre fight a number one contender fight? I don’t think so. So there’s no point in fighting guys when there’s no structure, there’s no rhyme or reason to who gets a title shot. And Nate Diaz is my boy, but the fact that they were even negotiating Nate Diaz for a welterweight title shot, it’s disrespectful to everybody in the division. These guys work their asses off to get where they are, and the sport is fuckin’ pissing me off. It’s losing its integrity and it needs to get back to its roots.”
Finally, Rockhold summed his thoughts up about the UFC with one strong statement that the new owners have put their focus completely into the wrong place:
“I can’t understand what their thought process is these days. They obviously don’t know have a clear understanding of what they’re doing. They’re not following the recipe that built this company. I don’t know, man. Invest in the fighters. No offense, but your investment is into Dana White. Dana White’s not selling pay-per-views. Invest in the fighters and they’ll solve your problems. You’ll hit your marks. You’ll sell your pay-per-views, and do your thing. But, get it straight.”