Luke Rockhold is Sorta Right, But Needs to Chill

Look, I get it…

The middleweight division of the UFC is in a very rough place right now. The champion, Michael Bisping, has elected not to fight any top ranked MW contenders for his title defenses so far (with his lone defense coming against then #14 Dan Henderson, and his upcoming bout against unranked Georges St. Pierre), and has actually debated retiring after his fight against GSP. Naturally, this is upsetting to both fans and the strongest contenders, but this whole situation has perturbed one man more than anyone else:

Luke Rockhold, the former UFC Middleweight Champion, and current hot-headed contender on a warpath, hellbent on settling the score with his biggest adversary.

After he dispatched #9 contender David Branch in the second round of their grudge match recently, he decided to let GSP know that the former welterweight champion did not belong in his division. He has been vocal about his disapproval regarding this fight taking place in the first place, and he actually told GSP that he would be crushed by Bisping. This perhaps is the most interesting thing to have been said in a post-fight interview recently. Here’s why…

The fact that anyone would ever think that GSP would be crushed by a fighter that is either in the middleweight or welterweight division is preposterous to me. Even if you think he’ll LOSE a fight, there’s no need for this kind of hyperbole. In Rockhold’s situation, I can see it as being more of an emotional reaction catalyzed by his longstanding bitterness following his loss to Bisping in 2016. Was it painful? Absolutely. Could it have been avoided? Of course! Does it eat Rockhold every second of the day? It appears to be that way. But is Rockhold being a bit ridiculous in his prediction, and could it perhaps be a statement motivated more by his visceral hatred of Michael Bisping? Yes, and YES. GSP has every tool to defeat Michael Bisping, and I do believe that he will take the crown from the aging champion. But there’s more to this than just Rockhold’s prediction; we need to dig deeper as to what actually justifies this event’s occurrence.

Let’s call this fight what it really is: a spectacle. It is as much of an attempt to draw money as any superfight we’ve seen recently, and is part of an ongoing trend which has rubbed some the wrong way, while being encouraged by others as the new wave of the sport’s matchmaking. Bisping vs. GSP makes ABSOLUTELY no sense from a purist’s standpoint; we’re looking at a division in which the champion has yet to unify his title with a bout against the interim titleholder (Robert Whitaker, who just came off a scintillating victory over top contender Yoel Romero), and with plenty of able bodied, deserving challengers. Instead, we are given a former champion coming out of his retirement to cement his place in history. And that really is the key word…history.

If the UFC has a chance to allow history to be made, along with a LOT of money, would they really pass up the opportunity in place of the ethical and sportsmanlike route of giving a deserving contender a shot? OBVIOUSLY NOT!! What Luke Rockhold and the others in this division need to understand is that this is a business as much as a sport, and upper management is not interested in anything other than PPV draws and draining their cash cows. Top contenders like Rockhold may get their chance, but only after the UFC has had its chance. For Rockhold in particular, I feel that the opportunity is not terribly far out of reach. He is still an outstanding fighter, a physical specimen, and more motivated than ever to get back his crown. If it takes a little bit of waiting, so be it – he can use the time to fix the holes in his game (i.e. his boxing) and then take what he believes to be his when the time is right. Until then, there’s just no point of him coming out and saying outlandish things that will get him nowhere.

So let’s sit back, and wait for the middleweight division to bring itself back into a normal state. The chaos will soon be over my friends, and I predict that we’ll be seeing Whitaker vs Rockhold for a title shot next year. Only time will tell…

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