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Chael Sonnen suggests Nick Diaz as opponent for potential Luke Rockhold return

Has the former UFC title challenger come up with a brilliant idea, or a terrible spectacle?

Luke Rockhold at UFC 278.
Luke Rockhold at UFC 278.
Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Chael Sonnen has a potential opponent for Luke Rockhold if he returns to competition.

For his first fight in nearly four years, Rockhold fought Paulo Costa at UFC 278, where both men were awarded ‘Fight of the Night’ for their all-action affair. The former Strikeforce and UFC champion lost to Costa by unanimous decision, after which he promptly retired.

However, that retirement may just be short-lived. Rockhold hinted at a return on social media, recently. Though the 37-year-old said he ‘can’t do this anymore’ and was ‘f—king old,’ some, including Sonnen, thought the former Strikeforce & UFC champ should continue, especially after his performance against Costa.

“He’s in the gym, he does a photo of himself. You know the old expression, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’” said Sonnen on his official YouTube channel. “So he does a photo of himself, got his fight gear on, which means shorts. He’s got his gloves on and he says it could be an interesting 2023.

“It’s one of those spots [where] the UFC is extremely difficult to compete in if you are not a champion or a contender,” continued Sonnen. “If you prove through opportunities, through hard matchups, through competitions that you’re not one of the two, it’s just a hard place to be at. Not to mention for an older fighter, not the mention for a former champion. I think that stuff is really cool, and I know that you guys do, too. But we can also acknowledge it’s just hard to stick around. You could see [Alistair] Overeem, [Junior Dos Santos] and T.J Dillashaw just as very recent examples. I don’t think that’s true for Luke.”

If Rockhold has one more fight in him, then Sonnen says it should be against someone like Nick Diaz.

“I think they give him a match,” said Sonnen. “I think he’s special, I think he’s different. I think that last performance alone, just out of respect gets him another match. But who would it be against? And if you’re not in the champion or contender category, who do you go against?

“I think that Nick Diaz is in a similar situation,” continued Sonnen. “The fans love him, the fans want him, his inactivity always puts that question mark there. And I don’t plan to put every veteran ’85 pounder against Nick, but it’s not a bad option. It’s an interesting match.”

Diaz has not fought since his third-round TKO loss to Robbie Lawler at UFC 266 in September. The Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu representative, who was recently seen training at the UFC Performance Institute, said he would fight again, setting his sights on ex-champion Israel Adesanya.

Because Adesanya is focused on an immediate rematch with Alex Pereira, the ‘Last Stylebender’ is almost certainly not a realistic option for Diaz. But Rockhold is, and Sonnen likes the fight.

“You got two guys from California, I don’t know how they haven’t crossed paths yet.”