Former Strikeforce and UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold has revealed that he has been in contact with the UFC about a possible Octagon return this year — ideally for him, this summer at some stage.
The former 185-pound titleholder has yet to feature since his massive knockout defeat to current light heavyweight champion, Jan Blacowicz at UFC 239 in July of 2019 — suffering a broken jaw in his divisional debut outing. The loss marked his third knockout defeat in his last four outings, following an infamous third round knockout loss to Yoel Romero in an interim middleweight title fight at UFC 221 in February of 2018.
Briefly planning a return to active-competition before the end of last year, Rockhold was earmarking a return to the middleweight division, following a surgical procedure to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder. Amid a series of injuries, Rockhold also required surgery to repair a broken jaw he sustained against Blachowicz — with a titanium plate inserted.
A stable member of both Sanford MMA in South Florida under Henri Hooft and American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California under Javier Mendez — as well as striking coach, Jason Parillo — Rockhold spoke with Submission Radio recently, detailing how he would be interested in a return to the Octagon sometime this summer.
“They’ve (the UFC) been reaching out, talking, just keeping tabs on my situation and letting me know that they’re interested. As am I. When the time’s right, when something really kind of appeals to me, it’s sexy. I want to come back for something that gets me excited, and I want to come back when I’m ready — when my body’s ready. And I think early, late summer would be ideal. It’s just matching up with the right person and the right thing that’s going to put me to where I want. I’m not looking to just play around. I’m wanna go straight to the gut of this division. And most likely 185 (-pounds). Not ruling out 205 (-pounds). But I really just gotta push my body to get in shape and see where it wants to go. Right now, I’m light. I’m like 205-208 (-pounds) right now, and I think that legitimately it’s going to be looking like I’m going back to middleweight. But we will see. If something pops up, you never know. If a fight falls apart — like many injuries do and COVID(-19) and everything that happens, I could be ready sooner than later.“
“I’ve been working, man. I’ve been trying to get my body back. My shoulder’s been an issue, an ongoing problem. That’s been kind of the whole hold-back and why I’m still doing my thing, still on the outskirts. They’re not easy, shoulder rehabs are not fun. If anybody has had a shoulder surgery, it’s like I just can’t get to one hundred per cent confidence in it. I’m almost there, but it’s just been a long, arduous process, and I’m coming along, just ready to do my thing. And the world is coming back around, so it’s making things a little more available and easier. So, little by little.“
If he makes his return to the UFC this year, it’ll have to come on his terms, in regards to his fitness and overall health — claiming he can’t continue to make Octagon appearances in a compromised state.
“If I’m gonna come back, I’m not gonna come back compromised. I’ve done too much to go in there and fight compromised. If I’m healthy, If I know I’m healthy and I’m clear-headed when I’m going out there, I can beat anybody. So, that’s what I’m waiting for, and that’s what I’m getting to right now.”
A twenty-one fight professional veteran, Rockhold defeated Jacare Souza to claim Strikforce gold back in September 2011, before taking the UFC middleweight crown from Chris Weidman back at UFC 194 in December of 2014.
A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Ronaldo Vieira, Rockhold also managed other career victories over the likes of Keith Jardine, Tim Kennedy, Costas Philippou, Michael Bisping, Lyoto Machida, and David Branch.