It’s no secret that the top of the middleweight division has been logjammed for some time. After Michael Bisping dethroned Luke Rockhold last June at UFC 199, Bisping has gone on to face Dan Henderson in his retirement bout and seemed poised to take on former welterweight demigod Georges St-Pierre.
Considering the queue of fighters in that weight class, this news did not sit well with the fighters that were aiming at getting a crack at Bisping. Yoel Romero and Ronaldo Souza in particular were seen as far more deserving, causing fan uproar regarding the matchup. Jacaré would eventually lose to Robert Whittaker at UFC on Fox 24, complicating things by undeniably setting Whittaker among the division’s elite.
Some fans rejoiced when the Bisping/GSP bout was called off by UFC president Dana White, who then said Yoel Romero would fight Bisping instead, eliminating a lot of the tension and mess.
Yet the man that was perhaps most vocal and whose words had a greater impact was former champion Luke Rockhold.
Rockhold’s most recent appearance on the MMA Hour had him going in hard on UFC management for skipping other middleweights over. Rockhold also made the case for other middleweights to sit out, as well as lobbying for a title shot of his own. It’s worth noting that his comments were before Bisping/GSP was shelved, but he definitely made some worthwhile points as to how title shots were awarded.
Valid as the points may be, the man that runs the show was none too pleased. After UFC 211 this past weekend, White shared his thoughts with the team at FOX Sports (courtesy of Damon Martin).
“There’s a lot of guys talking about ‘deserve’ — nobody deserves anything. You’ve got to earn it here. You’ve got [Luke] Rockhold screaming right now ‘I deserve this’. You just got knocked out in the first round. You’ve got to come back and earn it,” White told FOX Sports at the UFC 211 post fight press conference.
“The guy just got knocked out in the first round by Michael Bisping and he thinks he deserves this and he deserves that. You earn it. You want to come back and you want to fight for the title? Get back in here and earn it. That’s it.”
It should be noted that Rockhold has not fought since his loss against Bisping, and White placed further emphasis on the point that Luke won’t be getting another shot at the belt without rebounding with at least one win. He also dismissed what he believed to be a sense of entitlement from Rockhold.
“Nobody here deserves anything. You earn it,” White said. “You want the next shot at the title. You come out and you earn it. Just because you’re ranked No. 2, 3, 1, or whatever, things don’t line up that way all the time.”
Rockhold was none too pleased with Dana’s response. On Tuesday, he hit back at Dana on Twitter, citing GSP getting an immediate title shot in a weight class he’s never competed in before.
@danawhite I never said I deserved a title shot. I said we (middleweights) deserve clarity. We deserve something to fight for.— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) May 16, 2017
@danawhite "You have to earn your way in this company"? Tell me how did GSP earn a middleweight title shot? Think before you run your mouth— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) May 16, 2017
While Rockhold doesn’t have a fight booked, he is targeting a return in July, and he called out fellow contender Gegard Mousasi in a recent Instagram video.