4 fight suggestions for Luke Rockhold’s before UFC let’s him go

Sep 17, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Luke Rockhold (Red Gloves) fights David Branch (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports

After two years away from the Octagon, former Strikeforce and Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder Luke Rockhold is ready to fight. The problem for the 36-year-old is he’s had a great deal of trouble finding fighters interested in tangling with him. And he’s none too pleased about it.

Luke Rockhold is not happy

In a recent conversation with MMAFighting, the American Kickboxing Academy product expounded on his recent booking frustrations.

“I ain’t gonna take anything that doesn’t excite me,” Rockhold said. “I’m not just gonna step up and fight somebody that doesn’t excite me or doesn’t excite my fans. There’s no point. I’ve been doing that. I’ve been a Strikeforce champ, I’ve been UFC world champ, I don’t need to come back and fight some bum that doesn’t f*cking get me excited. I’d rather just not come back. If you want me to fight, give me something that excites me. Give me something that excites my fans, my people, and all of us. Otherwise, f*ck off and let me go because I ain’t gonna do that.”

As a man who’s headlined a bunch of UFC events, and is closing in on 40-years-old, it’s understandable that Rockhold desires an interesting challenge for his twenty-second fight camp. Especially, since cold hard cash isn’t enough of a motivator for the sometimes model and actor.

However, the Californian has to realize losing three of his last four by crushing knockouts has hurt his value. Meaning, most talent in the top-10 aspiring for title fights won’t see much to gain in beating him. With that in mind, here’s a list of some intriguing and sensible options that could get Rockhold back into the Octagon.

1. Kevin Holland

A fight with Kevin Holland was actually being worked on and surprisingly didn’t come together. In the same interview with MMAFighting, Rockhold explained that both he and “Trailblazer” were interested in the fight, however, when it came to their management teams coming to terms, a booking never materialized. Now the man also known as “Big Mouth” is booked to face Kyle Daukas in October.

Assuming the fourteenth-ranked Holland ends his two-fight losing streak and gets past the Philly upstart, a Rockhold clash makes a bunch of sense. Especially, since both are up for it. How fun would the trash talk be as Holland calls Rockhold a “pretty boy” or “punch drunk,” to get a rise out of the most well-known foe of his career? Plus, stylistically it is an intriguing booking. Fingers crossed it happens later this year.

2. Chris Weidman

In the past, Rockhold has never shown much of an interest in a rematch with the man he usurped the middleweight thrown from in December 2015. However, with both men’s stock at career lows–having a combined 2-6 record in their last eight with six knockouts–this may be the right time for it to finally happen.

See it as an MMA loser leaves town match. If Weidman can’t return from his horrid leg injury suffered at UFC 261 and beat a fighter around the same age, and in a similar slump, it just may be further proof that losing six of his last eight is an obvious sign his UFC run is at an end. The same goes for Rockhold. Making this a rare fight between two fighters at low points that has major stakes.

3. Kelvin Gastelum

luke rockhold
Apr 12, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Kelvin Gastelum during weigh ins for UFC 236 at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Most of the UFC middleweight division has nothing to gain from a fight with Rockhold, except Kelvin Gastelum. The ninth-ranked talent has had a rough last two years in losing four of his last five. The reason he’s still in the top 10 is he’s done the promotion some favors, and those four defeats came to elite talent. Including the current and former middleweight champions. However, a fifth loss in his six would most certainly jettison him out of the rankings.

That’s where Cool Hand Luke comes in. For Gastelum, it offers a winnable fight against a name and former champion. For Rockhold, it’s a top-10 opponent and chance to jump a few steps ahead with just one victory. There is more reward than risk for both in the fight.

4. Julian Marquez

This option is the least likely but arguably the most fun. Call it the battle of “the most handsome middleweights” in the UFC. After a serious back injury cost him two years of his career, Julian Marquez has made MMA headlines in and out of the Octagon. He’s won two straight by submission, got the attention of Miley Cyrus in his February post-fight interview, and then Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Maholmes and Travis Kelce after a pickleball callout in April.

The guy has the kinda social momentum a lot of fighters envy, and that is the name of the game in 2021 MMA. Rockhold may not see a lot to gain in the fight, but Marquez is a serious talent at middleweight and is certainly a fighter just outside the top-15. This booking would offer a legit test and the sort of spotlight he covets at this stage of his career. It may be wishful thinkings, but it’s a fight that would have fans interested.

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