Rockhold & Dana White Clash Over Interim Title
Many people are displeased with the status of the UFC middleweight title, but perhaps none more so than Luke Rockhold.
After losing his title in a shocking loss to Michael Bisping, Rockhold has watched Bisping be given two questionable opponents for his title defenses. First, Dan Henderson got a title shot despite being ranked outside of the top 10. The top contenders at middleweight — Jacare Souza, Yoel Romero, Rockhold himself — bemoaned the fight as Bisping seeking easy challenges for the sake of holding onto the title.
Then Bisping beat Henderson in October, and the thought was that he would face a worthy contender in his next fight. That contender ended up being Yoel Romero, who cemented himself as next in line by knocking out Chris Weidman in November.
But the division saw another curveball hit this year when it was announced that Bisping’s second title defense would come against former welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who is returning from a three-year absence and has never competed at 185 lbs.
A date for Bisping vs. GSP has yet to be set. The rest of the contenders have to stew in their frustration, and now Rockhold is calling for the UFC to make it right.
Appearing at UFC 210 to support his teammate Daniel Cormier, Rockhold said that an interim title should be introduced to the division.
“An interim title is very justified at this point,” Rockhold told TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter. “Two irrelevant title fights back-to-back is stupid. (Bisping vs.) Dan (Henderson) was one thing, but [Bisping vs. St-Pierre] is a joke."
“An interim title is a guarantee at a title shot; that’s what I see. You want guarantees. If you’re gonna fight the best guys in the world, I want a guarantee I’m going to fight for the title. We’ve worked our asses off, we’ve earned the spot.”
Romero, who has already proven himself to be deserving of a title shot, has said that the only way he fights anyone but the champion is if an interim title is on the line. Rockhold says he would be more than willing to face Romero, but only for a belt.
“If that was on the table, I’d gladly take it,” Rockhold said. “And I think [Romero] feels the same way.”
UFC President Dana White, however, does not see things the same way. Speaking to the media following UFC 210, White shrugged off Rockhold’s statements right away.
“Luke should really wait for his next shot at something, next fight or something, because that’s kind of a ridiculous statement,” White said. “Not only is Bisping ready and willing to defend the title, he’s waiting on GSP right now. And he also said, ‘As soon as this GSP fight is over, if I win the title again, I will defend against Romero immediately.’ So no.”