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Luke Rockhold discusses UFC return, believes he “can beat anybody” if healthy

Luke Rockhold has been out of action since July 2019, but it now looks as if the former UFC middleweight champion is almost ready to make his return.

While it once seemed as if the 36-year-old was considering retirement, he ultimately decided against hanging up his gloves for good. And now as he recovers from shoulder surgery, he’s once again set his sights on fighting.

For him to return, however, the circumstances will have to be just right. And not just in terms of the matchup and the timeline, but in terms of his health as well. Although he had surgery on his shoulder, recovery hasn’t been the easiest process.

“The last few years, I’ve had a problem with my labrum and my rotator cuff,” Rockhold told Submission Radio. “It’s just been deteriorating, and I relied on my right hook, and my right shoulder has taken some damage. So, it’s not as sharp, and it was hard to keep my hand up and work. And just when I’m punching, I’m looping. I don’t have the stability and the strength to stay up, stay strong here. So, I decided to get the surgery in the middle of COVID, and it’s been a problem coming back from the surgery.

“And I’ve had questions of whether or not I’ll have to do another surgery, and it’s just not 100 percent there. Like, the elasticity in the ligament, I can’t really rely on it. I couldn’t rely on it. I’m starting to be able to now, finally, after lots of different treatments and PRP’s and everything I’ve been doing. So, it’s coming along. Finally coming along.”

His shoulder being completely healthy would be one item checked off the list of obstacles blocking a potential return. Next, would be receiving the right offer from the UFC. After all, the former titleholder is looking for a challenge that excites him.

“They’ve (UFC) been reaching out, talking, just keeping tabs on my situation and letting me know that they’re interested,” Rockhold said. “As am I, when the time’s right, when something really kind of appeals to me, it’s sexy. I want to come back for something that gets me excited, and I want to come back when I’m ready, when my body’s ready. And I think early, late summer would be ideal. It’s just matching up with the right person and the right thing that’s going to put me to where I want. I’m not looking to just play around.”

Once considered to be the best 185-pounder in the world, Luke Rockhold hasn’t seen as much success during his last few trips to the Octagon. In his last fight, which marked his debut at 205-pounds, he was brutally knocked out by current light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. Before that, he had lost two of his previous three bouts via knockout to Yoel Romero and Michael Bisping.

Despite recent struggles, Rockhold isn’t looking for any easy fights. He’s looking to be sent straight to the wolves, specifically at 185 pounds as opposed to at light heavyweight.

“I wanna go straight to the gut of this division and most likely 185. Not ruling out 205, but I really just gotta push my body to get in shape and see where it wants to go. Right now, I’m light. I’m like 205-208 (pounds) right now, and I think that legitimately it’s going to be looking like I’m going back to middleweight. But we will see. If something pops up, you never know. If a fight falls apart, like many injuries do and COVID and everything that happens, I could be ready sooner than later.”

In terms of potential opponents for Rockhold, there will be no shortage of options given the exciting nature of the middleweight division. One fight that he’ll have his eye on, however, is an upcoming bout between Darren Till and Marvin Vettori. The winner, in Rockhold’s opinion, could make sense as his next opponent.

“This Marvin Vettori kid is doing pretty well for himself, and Darren Till’s done a couple of things here,” he said. “So, I like those fights.”

Regardless of a date or an opponent, though, a potential return all depends on Rockhold’s health. But it’s clear he hasn’t lost his confidence.

If fully healthy, Luke Rockhold believes he can make another run at the top.

“If I’m gonna come back, I’m not gonna come back compromised. I’ve done too much to go in there and fight compromised. If I’m healthy, If I know I’m healthy and I’m clear-headed when I’m going out there, I can beat anybody. So, that’s what I’m waiting for, and that’s what I’m getting to right now.”

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Michael Henken
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.