Luke Rockhold hints that Chris Weidman rematch may be looming
Luke Rockhold says there are currently two choices for his first title defense and the leading candidate is former middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
By Damon Martin
Almost a month after his championship win at UFC 194, Luke Rockhold is starting to look ahead at what comes next, and it looks like he might find a familiar face standing across the Octagon from him.
Rockhold has started conversations with the UFC about his first title defense later this year, and there are two names that currently populate the list. One of them is former middleweight champion Chris Weidman, who according to Rockhold has been tearing up the phone lines trying to convince UFC president Dana White to give him the rematch after he lost the belt in December.
"We've talked and from what I see there's a couple of fights on the table -- there's Yoel Romero and there's Chris Weidman," Rockhold told FOX Sports on Wednesday. "I think Chris Weidman, he's been the longtime reigning champion, I know he's begging for a shot. He's been harassing Dana (White) from what I understand since the day after the fight and I'm not opposed to giving him what he wants if he really likes it.
"Yoel Romero, he had his opportunity to go show up and earn a title shot and I think he underperformed. I want a guy the fans are going to demand and want. Unfortunately he couldn't fight the second and the third round. This is about selling a fight and making money and it's business. As much as I want to go out and fight whoever, this is a long training camp, it's a championship training camp and I want to do it for the right fight, the right paycheck and the right time."
Following the event in December, it appeared Romero and former UFC champion Vitor Belfort were at the top of the list for potential opponents to face Rockhold next. Romero beat Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at UFC 194 but the decision was largely disputed after three rounds.
Considering Weidman suffered a brutal fourth-round TKO in the fight, his name wasn't mentioned right away but it seems he's entered the conversation of late. For Rockhold's part, he has no problem giving Weidman a rematch after their first meeting went his way – and he doesn’t need any extra motivation to do so.
I know he's begging for a shot. He's been harassing Dana (White) from what I understand since the day after the fight and I'm not opposed to giving him what he wants.
— Luke Rockhold on Chris Weidman
Rockhold looks at his performance in that fight and wasn't impressed with what he saw out of himself. So a second fight with Weidman only gives him a chance to improve.
It also gives Rockhold the opportunity to send Weidman to the back of the line because a second win over him virtually guarantees they won't meet a third time.
"100 percent, I'm fine with that," Rockhold said about the Weidman rematch. "I don't need extra motivation. Someone's coming for me from the other side of the world, other side of the country, wherever they're at -- they're coming to take what I've earned, my spot, something I've worked for my whole life, it's more motivation for me.
"I've got a lot to prove and I'm out there to reach my potential and I'm far from that. I'm out there to go put on a flawless performance. I'm not happy with my performance against Chris so if we're going to do it again, I'm going to go out there looking to execute and be perfect next time."
Whether it's Weidman or Romero, Rockhold's intentions in the fight remain the same -- to beat every contender in such dominant fashion that they no longer request rematches or ask for title shots against him while he's champion.
He didn't get to do that against Weidman the last time so Rockhold is more than happy to face him again and ensure that the former middleweight champion gives up hope on ever seeking a third chance to defeat him.
"I want to make a statement to where he never wants to come back and fight me again. That's what I'm looking to do every time," Rockhold said.
"These guys want to come fight me, I don't want to give them hope. I don't want to give them a chance. I don't want to make them think for a second that they're in this fight and the fact that Chris thinks he has that -- it's more motivation for me to out and put a stamp on this next performance and send him back down for good."
The one name that didn't end up on the list for potential opponents was Belfort, who holds a win over Rockhold from his UFC debut in 2013.
Rockhold would like nothing more than to avenge that loss but Belfort just recently lost in a title fight against Weidman, and since then he's only competed one time with a knockout victory over Dan Henderson this past November. According to Rockhold, the thought right now is that as much as he wants to face Belfort, the Brazilian still hasn't done enough to earn a title fight so soon after his last one, and he'll likely need another win before he'll be considered.
"You know I want that fight. I think everybody knows I want that fight. That would be great," Rockhold said about Belfort. "From what I understand he needs to get out there and do it one more time, he needs to earn his shot and make people demand it.
"As much as I would like it, I understand. We talked about it. When the fans demand that fight, we can make that fight. He can go out there and execute again then I'd love to give him that shot."