Luke Rockhold Says Interim Middleweight Belt Is ‘Justified’

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Luke Rockhold is calling for an interim title to be implemented in the UFC’s 185-pound division.

The former middleweight champion dropped his title to Michael Bisping in his first career title defense back in June of last year, when he was knocked out by the Englishman in the first round of the UFC 199 co-main event. The Californian has not competed since.

Since his loss a new title contender has emerged, as Cuban powerhouse Yoel Romero has propelled himself into the No. 1-ranked position in the middleweight rankings after a vicious flying knee knockout victory over former division kingpin Chris Weidman. The title picture becomes a bit more complex now, however, as Canadian mixed martial arts (MMA) legend and former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre will now make his return to the Octagon – as a middleweight.

‘GSP’ is being granted an immediate title opportunity against Bisping in his 185-pound debut, putting contenders such as Romero and Rockhold on hold. The fact that a date has yet to be agreed on for the title match doesn’t help the situation any further.

During a recent interview with TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, Rockhold stated that he doesn’t believe the Canadian is truly hungry to get back into the Octagon (quotes via Bloody Elbow):

“I think Georges has other issues that are holding him back from fighting, too,” Rockhold said. “It doesn’t seem like he’s really hungry to get back in there as soon as he can.”

Bisping made his first title defense against a then-No. 14-ranked Dan Henderson this past October, which he won via unanimous decision. The title defense made virtually no sense as it pertains to the rankings, and with St-Pierre now stepping to the front of the line to further complicate things, Rockhold believes an interim 185-pound strap is ‘justified at this point’:

“An interim title is very justified at this point,” Rockhold said. “Two irrelevant title fights back-to-back is stupid. (Bisping vs.) Dan (Henderson) was one thing, but [Bisping vs. St-Pierre] is a joke.

“An interim title is a guarantee at a title shot; that’s what I see. You want guarantees. If you’re gonna fight the best guys in the world, I want a guarantee I’m going to fight for the title. We’ve worked our asses off, we’ve earned the spot.”

Rockhold is very upset with the way the UFC has handled the 185-pound division as of late, and believes that he and Romero should be the ones competing for an interim middleweight title:

“If that was on the table, I’d gladly take it,” Rockhold said. “And I think [Romero] feels the same way.”

“I’m ready to come back,” Rockhold said. “I’m tired of what’s going on. It’s pretty sad to see the route they’ve taken, and I’m ready to go back there and correct the situation.”

Following this past weekend’s (Sat. April 8, 2017) UFC 210 pay-per-view (PPV) event in Buffalo, UFC President Dana White got the opportunity to respond to Rockhold’s statement, and flat out said ‘no’ to any chances of an interim belt at 185-pounds:

“Luke should really wait for his next shot at something, next fight or something, because that’s kind of a ridiculous statement,” White said. “Not only is Bisping ready and willing to defend the title, he’s waiting on GSP right now. And he also said, ‘As soon as this GSP fight is over, if I win the title again, I will defend against Romero immediately.’ So no.”