Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold has certainly had a few interesting days.
Like many others, Rockhold found out on Friday his title fight at UFC 221 against Robert Whittaker had been called off thanks to the latter’s injury issues. Instead, he has been paired with Yoel Romero for a shot at the interim championship in Perth, Australia, on February 11th.
Once again, a UFC middleweight interim title belt is in play. Whittaker won what was initially the interim middleweight belt against Romero in impressive fashion at UFC 213 in July, 2017. However, Whittaker’s belt was legitimised once middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre vacated his title shortly after winning it from Michael Bisping at UFC 217.
Most fighters are left ruing their opponents once they drop out of a fight, but Rockhold is surprisingly understanding.
“It’s not an ideal situation, of course,” Rockhold said on The MMA Hour, as per Shaun Al-Shatti. “I’m going across the world to fight a guy that I could fight down the street. I wanted to fight Whittaker. It’s a fight I’ve been seeking for a long time, and I thought it was a good time to make it happen, but obviously he’s got some health issues. I wish him the best and I know Whittaker’s not a man to run away from anything. I respect that kid and I wish him the best. I hope it’s not too serious.”
When MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani pressed Rockhold for his thoughts on an opponent switch, the American believes Romero could be the easier foe come February.
“I think Yoel has more holes to expose in his game,” Rockhold said. “Whittaker’s tighter. He’s harder to get to, whereas Yoel will kinda leave himself open. Very similar fights, but I like this matchup.
“His [Romero] body is suspect. I think he can only push so hard for so long. Mentally, I think he has it. I mean, he has the will to win even when he’s tired. It’s about making his body quit, and that’s what I plan to do. He’s got limitations, he’s got holes, so I’m going to pick him apart and I’m going to push his body to that breaking point. I know he’s going to come forward, I know he’s dangerous, I know he’s not going to quit, but I know his body will give out, and I’m going to push him to that level.”
Rockhold and Romero headline UFC 221 on February 11th inside the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia.