Luke Rockhold is 2 – 1 in the UFC, ranked No. 5 in the middleweight division, and riding an impressive two fight winning streak.
Since entering the promotion in May of 2013, the former Strikeforce champion has managed two first round stoppages – Costas Philippou and Tim Boetsch – and taken an equally quick KO loss – his first fight in the senior circuit – to Vitor Belfort.
On Wednesday’s edition of UFC Tonight (July 10, 2014), the American Kickboxking Academy (AKA) team member made it clear that he wants to avenge his UFC on FX 8: Belfort vs. Rockhold loss, to “The Phenom.”
Stating that he only wants two bouts, either a rematch with Belfort or a title fight with division champion Chris Weidman, the 29-year-old, 12 – 2 (professional) Kennedy, listed Belfort as his fight of preference and a title shot as his consolation prize, should the UFC not “grant” him Belfort.
"I want Vitor. If they won't grant me that, then I want the title. I've beaten everybody else."
Regarding the requests, Rockhold is likely to get neither.
UFC President Dana White made it clear at last weekend’s (July 5, 2014) UFC 175 post-fight press conference, that Belfort is next in line for a title shot if he can “get his business handled.” White, of course, was referencing Belfort’s licensing issues with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). As White put it:
“I think what’s next and what everybody would like to see – I think what I’d like to see and what you’d like to see – is probably Vitor Belfort... If this guy (Belfort) can get his business handled.”
Taking that into consideration, and working off the assumption that Belfort gets his NSAC license, “The Phenom’s” next fight will be against Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman and not Luke Rockhold. Subsequent to that, the California native can also nix any thoughts of fighting Weidman for the title.
As to Rockhold stating that he's beaten everyone else – he has Strikeforce wins over No. 4 ranked Ronaldo Souza and No. 6 ranked Tim Kennedy – he really can’t make the claim, and given the landscape of the division right now, he’s going to have to take a non-Belfort, non-Weidman fight, before he gets a title shot.
As such, the fight that Rockhold should probably be seeking is a match with the No. 2 ranked Lyoto Machida. Although coming off a tough title loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 175, “The Dragon” is, nonetheless, ahead of Rockhold in the rankings and a fighter that he's never faced. The only problem with the scenario is that Machida is on medical suspension until September 4, with a no-contact until August 20.
Photo Courtesy of Luke Rockhold