Luke Rockhold targets September return with a lot of rematches in his future
MAY 23, 2014 5:30p ET
It would be hard to figure out how Luke Rockhold suffered a broken toe in his fight with Tim Boetsch at UFC 172 considering how quickly he dispatched the former top 10 fighter via submission in the first round, but that's just how the life of a fighter goes sometimes.
Injuries happen in the weirdest places without warning -- just ask Jon Jones' big toe how that works.
The broken toe was unfortunate timing for Rockhold considering how in his two performances thus far in 2014 he crushed Costas Philippou with a first round knockout before blasting through Boetsch in April. It appeared Rockhold was ready to make a summer time run at the UFC middleweight title, but with the broken toe still healing, it looks like his return will have to wait a little while longer.
"It still looks pretty messed up, not going to lie," Rockhold said about the mangled toe. "I tend to dance on it a little too much from time to time, get a little carried away. (The doctor) was saying like four weeks if I rested it and didn't do anything to it, but I kind of push the envelope a little bit and I've definitely banged that thing pretty hard on a few things so it's going to slow down the healing process. So I figure it's going to be more like an eight week process."
Just because he's not fighting right now doesn't mean Rockhold isn't keeping busy. He's currently in Las Vegas where he's helping out his teammate Cain Velasquez as he coaches the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latino America. While he can't let the cat out of the bag about the fights or the fighters, Rockhold is enjoying his experience on the show, which is the first time he's been on the TUF set.
“I don't have many options. All of my good fights right now are rematches. Vitor, Jacare and (Tim) Kennedy I guess, but I already beat Jacare and Kennedy”
"It's good, everything's going great, it's about as much as I can say. This is my first go in Spanish as the token white guy, it's all good," Rockhold joked. "Everyone's really nice and respectful. We've got a bunch of guys from our team so it makes things easier. Trying to stay in shape, it's a nice way to avoid the chaos of Vegas and just try to find a way to live a normal life out here in Vegas training."
Rockhold is also going to be a connoisseur of art this weekend during the UFC 173 festivities as he becomes the subject of photographer Sam Hon and his project called 'Optical Panacea', which focuses on creative and unusual photos of MMA fighters in action. Past fighters such as Anderson Silva and Urijah Faber have been involved with the shoots that Hon does, and now Rockhold gets to be a subject as well.
Unlike normal photoshoots where he's asked to pose or look a certain way at the camera, this was a project Rockhold enjoyed because he just got to be himself.
"It's visually pleasing. It intrigues you because you get to see all the different sequences of a fight scene and then you see non-fight stuff. He's bringing a lot to the table, it's a piece of art," Rockhold said. "It's one of those things that even if you're not a fan of us, it's something really nice you'd like to have in your house or in a collection."
Following his brief stay in Las Vegas, the traveling man will then pick up and head over to Germany to help promote the upcoming UFC Fight Night card in Berlin before coming back across the sea to head to Vancouver for UFC 174.
Somewhere in the midst of all these trips, Rockhold hopes to book his next fight for later this year, but it's still up in the air on who he could face. The former Strikeforce champion was ready to come back even with a broken toe to take on Michael Bisping, but that idea got shot down much to his chagrin.
"I'll tell you this, for most people I wouldn't really be ready to fight until at least August, maybe September given my injury, but if it was (Michael) Bisping, I'd fight him on one foot for sure," Rockhold said. "The guy just seems to get under your skin, I gave him a chance and he burned that bridge pretty quick. So I'm not too fond of the guy to tell you the truth."
The reality of Rockhold's situation is actually rather sticky.
Since losing to Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut last year, Rockhold has gone 2-0 with two finishes and now finds himself ranked at No. 5 in the world without many options to fight those ahead of him for the chance to compete for the title. What Rockhold wants most right now is a rematch with Belfort, but it seems every option for him right now revolves around facing someone he's already fought.
"Vitor's the guy that's ahead of me, the only guy that's beat me in the last seven years or so. Jacare is a guy I beat, for some reason he's ranked ahead of me, I'm not sure why. Anderson (Silva) is out, he's injured. Vitor and Jacare are the only guys ranked above me that aren't fighting for the title right now," Rockhold explained.
"I don't have many options. All of my good fights right now are rematches. Vitor, Jacare and (Tim) Kennedy I guess, but I already beat Jacare and Kennedy. I don't want to step back anymore. I took a step back kind of fighting (Tim) Boetsch so I want to move forward. I want that title shot but I want to beat the guy, I want to earn it."
Kennedy faced lower ranked opponents in each of his last two fights so now he's hopeful the UFC will match him up with a another top five middleweight with the winner moving on to face the victor from the upcoming UFC 175 main event between Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida.
That's a big part of the reason why Rockhold wants Belfort so badly, because he doesn't want to feel like he slipped by a challenge on his way to the belt. Right now, however, Belfort is missing in action and it's unclear when he'll return.
So Rockhold will just bide his time, allow his toe to heal, and wait for the UFC to get him a fight in late Summer. By the end of 2014, Rockhold just wants to be in line for the shot at the belt and whoever he has to go through to get there is the person he wants to face.
"I think September would be ideal," Rockhold said about his return to action. "For me to come back and have a full training camp and have an even better performance than my last two performances to make sure I solidify my spot as the No. 1 contender and get that title shot. September would be ideal. I just want a good fight. I don't pick fights, I take fights, and whoever the UFC gives me, I want the best guy I can get."