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Rockhold returns! Former UFC champ coming back to MMA

It looks like Luke Rockhold hasn’t found the idea of retiring from MMA as fulfilling as he might have hoped it would be.

UFC 239: Blachowicz v Rockhold Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Nothing lasts forever, but combat sports retirements seem to have a shorter shelf life than uncooked chicken. Whether it’s the money, the fame, or just the thrill of getting to punch another person in the face and have people cheer them on, fighters rarely seem to quit the game for good.

This especially seems to be the case when it’s not so much the fighter pushing themselves to retire, but others around them. “I think Luke Rockhold should talk about hanging it up,” UFC president Dana White told reporters after UFC 239 back in July of last year—where Rockhold suffered a broken jaw on his way to his second straight KO loss. A few months later, Rockhold wasn’t quite willing to say he was retired, but told reporters he was “happy not fighting.” He wasn’t closing the door on his career, but he didn’t foresee a return to MMA.

By April of 2020, however. That tune was starting to change. “I’m not trying to make some big statement,” Rockhold told MMA UK News, “make attention about it when I’m not sure about it. Here we are now. I’m getting healthier, and I might be getting an itch. We’ll see.”

On Monday, August 10th, the former UFC champion made it official. ESPN reports that the 35-year-old hopes to return to the Octagon by the end of 2020. When asked why, his answer was short and to the point: “Because I felt like it,” the longtime AKA talent told the outlet.

Rockhold reportedly plans to continue splitting his time between AKA and Henri Hooft’s Hard Knocks 365 out in Florida, a setup he was using prior to his loss to Jan Blachowicz in his light heavyweight debut last year. It doesn’t sound, however, like Rockhold will be looking to keep his experiment with the 205-lb division going, suggesting instead that he’d be interested in re-matching fellow former champ Chris Weidman or, as he suggested back in April, taking on Anderson Silva.

Now 16-5 in his MMA career, Rockhold has competed just 3 times since losing his UFC middleweight title to Michael Bisping back in 2016. He picked up a quick comeback KO victory over David Branch, before losing to Yoel Romero and Blachowicz. He has been largely sidelined by an ongoing shin injury in the periods in-between fights, one which has required multiple surgeries. For his last bout in the UFC, he pushed himself to compete with a bandage still on the injured leg. Hopefully after some time away from competition he’ll be able to at least step in the Octagon without the specter of past injuries quite so close at hand.