Former UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold, retired from MMA after a decision loss to Paulo Costa at UFC 278 in August of 2023. However, after Rockhold hinted that his retirement might not last very long, Bellator MMA President Scott Coker has shown interest in a reunion.
In an interview Coker did with MMA Junkie, Scott mentioned that he has talked with Rockhold’s manager, Dave Martin, and confirmed that the former Strikeforce champion will attend this weekend’s Bellator 290: Bader vs. Emelianenko 2 event.
“We’ve talked to Dave Martin and I think he’s going to come to the fight. We’ll probably have a conversation or two,” Coker said after a Bellator 290 news conference. “We just haven’t sat down and had a real conversation yet. We’ve been busy with this event, but we will at some point, to see if there’s something that could work or if there’s a fit.”
It’s been over a decade since Rockhold and Coker have worked together. Rockhold joined Scott’s Strikeforce promotion for his third professional bout in 2008, and posted up six consecutive first-round finishes to earn a shot at Ronaldo “Jacare“ Souza’s 185-pound title in 2011. After winning the belt via unanimous decision, he would go on to defend his belt twice against Keith Jardine and then Tim Kennedy. Shortly after that, the American Kickboxing Academy product found himself in the UFC, after the promotion’s parent company (Zuffa LLC) purchased Strikeforce to acquire talent, and of course kill one of their largest competitors.
Rockhold flunked his UFC debut in 2013 due to a Vitor Belfort wheel kick, but then flourished by finishing four foes in a row to get a crack at the belt in 2015. Luke had a wild come from behind victory over the then undefeated champion, Chris Weidman, pulling off a fourth round stoppage by way of ground strikes. Honestly, Weidman has never really been the same since then.
The time spent as king of the hill was short-lived for Rockhold, as he was knocked out in a rematch with Michael Bisping in his very first defense. The former champ responded with a second round finish of David Branch in 2017, but little did he know that the victory would end up becoming his final professional win.
The UFC’s former middleweight king was brutally sparked out by Yoel Romero in 2018, and then again by Jan Błachowicz up at 205-pounds in 2019. After taking some off, Luke returned to action in 2022 for the aforementioned Paulo Costa fight, and that’s where the legend left his gloves in the Octagon.
I kind of have mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, who am I to criticize how the man wants to make a living. Furthermore, there are plenty of fresh matchups and/or interesting rematches for him in Bellator. But on the other hand, the guy is 38-years-old, has a ton of mileage on him, and hasn’t won a professional contest in almost six-years.