Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is finally set to make his light heavyweight debut later this year, and his main goal is to dethrone Jon Jones as that division’s champion.
Rockhold is scheduled to face Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239 on July 6th, having been out of action since his February 2018 knockout loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 221. Multiple injury setbacks (which have plagued him for much of his career) led to him missing the rest of the year, but his days at 185 are finally over.
In an interview with Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Rockhold addressed his decision to switch weight classes.
“I’m happy about not cutting weight. I’m happy about eating. I’m happy about how it feels. I’ve never felt like this before, and it feels good,” Rockhold said (via MMA Fighting).
“It just got harder and harder [at 185 pounds], and depleting myself more and more as the years went on, and man, I just wasn’t recovering. I didn’t have the strength. You can kinda see it as I go along, it’s just a lack of not recovering and getting back to full strength. Even in training camp, I’d get down to a certain weight the last few years, and I would just, I’d feel weak and depleted. When I had a little extra girth, I was doing a lot better. I could handle just about anybody at any weight. And so now, actually lifting and eating right and not depriving myself, it’s a different world. I’m excited to get in there and show the world.”
Rockhold has never missed the middleweight limit in any of his fights, but the well-chronicled injury history has led to several bout cancellations. Luke vows that those issues will be gone now that he’s at 205 lbs.
“It’s a hell of a lot better, I’ll tell you that,” Rockhold said. “Obviously the extra muscle, it kinda keeps everything intact. And a lot of those injuries happen at the end of training camp, when I’m depleting myself and getting down to weight and your body fat gets low. Your body becomes brittle. So I’m far less injury prone [at 205 pounds] and I’m looking forward to getting f-cking swinging, swinging with weight and some muscle.
“Obviously I’m not happy with how I’ve been about my career lately, and I’ve rethought things,” he added, “and I’m coming, and this is the recipe, this is the answer. Light heavyweight and not compromising myself. When I let it go, I let it go, and I’ve never met a man in the gym that can outdo me. So I’m just going to go out there and let this thing happen at light heavyweight and you guys are going to see, it’s going to be fun.”
Rockhold vs. Blachowicz will be on the undercard of Jon Jones’ title defense vs. Thiago Santos, himself a former middleweight. In fact, Jones’ most recent outing saw him beat another middleweight-to-light heavyweight convert in Anthony Smith. Given the dearth of contenders at the moment, Rockhold beating a veteran in Blachowicz could catapult him high up the rankings and close to a title shot. From there? He sees himself as matching up very favorably with the champion.
“I don’t believe there’s a man in the world who can compete with me on the ground,” Rockhold said. “I don’t believe Jon is that polished on the feet. I think he adjusts, I think he’s tactical. I think I have the skills to beat him there, I have the skills to beat him on the ground, and I think the wrestling is pretty much nullified, I don’t really think it plays much of a factor.”
“I don’t think it takes much,” Rockhold said. “It takes a good performance. It’s all about the performance of what we do and how you do it, so let’s just wait and see. Check me out July 6th, I’m going to go put this man away and then we can talk, then we can talk about what’s up.”
You can watch the full Rockhold interview at the top of the page.