Luke Rockhold calls dibs on Anderson Silva’s return fight

The No. 6-ranked middleweight has his hands full Wednesday night against Costas Philippou at UFC Fight Night on FOX Sports 1, but Rockhold is already thinking about Silva's return.

Luke Rockhold has a lot on his plate right now, starting with a dangerous puncher in Costas Philippou on Wednesday night. He plans on fighting three times in 2014, with a title shot — or at least a title eliminator — somewhere in there.

Those goals are very reasonable for the UFC middleweight and former Strikeforce middleweight champion. But he has another one that doesn’t quite fit into that working-toward-the-title mold. Rockhold wants to be Anderson Silva’s first fight back if and when he returns to the UFC.

Silva, who Rockhold calls “the greatest of all time,” broke his leg last month at UFC 168 and is likely out about a year, if he doesn’t decide to call it a career. Silva has been telling anyone who’ll listen he’s returning, though.

“I’d love to welcome the GOAT back,” Rockhold told FOX Sports.

Chris Weidman has already broken Silva’s 16-fight UFC winning streak and now sent him on a two-fight losing streak after beating him Dec. 28. Part of Rockhold wishes that he was the one who got that crack at Silva and halted his seven-year run atop the middleweight division.

I’d love to welcome the GOAT back.

“If you’re a true fighter and you believe in yourself to be the best, you want to beat the guy to be the guy,” Rockhold said. “That’s something I’d always wanted, to beat him.”

Rockhold, 29, has his hands full right now with Philippou, who he meets Wednesday at UFC Fight Night (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) here at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. A win would put the sixth-ranked UFC middleweight in prime position for a top contender bout next.

People talk mostly about Weidman, Vitor Belfort, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Lyoto Machida in the division, but the well-rounded, technically sound Rockhold is right there despite a knockout loss to Belfort in his last fight.

The weight class right is nearly as good as any other in the UFC, especially at the top. The return of Silva, perhaps in 2015, would make things even more interesting. And maybe it’ll be Rockhold who he faces in his comeback bout.

“Who knows?” Rockhold said. “It sounds like he might be coming back. He sounds pretty confident in his return. There might be an opportunity to fight the great one.”