UFC Middleweight Champ Luke Rockhold wants May to July return, but doesn’t want to fight at UFC 199

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

New UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold is hoping to return to action by late spring or early summer, but there’s one event in particular at which he does not want to compete: UFC 199.

“I would say [I want to fight in] May, June or July, but UFC 200 would be cool,” Rockhold said in an interview with MMAJunkie.com. “I don’t want to be on UFC 199, I’ll tell you that. The hype for 200 will be so big it will take away from 199. Who wants to be on 199? I want to be on 198 or 200. That would be cool, even if I’m not main eventing.”

As for just whom that first title defense will come against, Rockhold would like it to be Vitor Belfort, but he’s open to other options depending on what the UFC would like to do.

“It depends on what works out. Whatever,” Rockhold said. “If [Chris] Weidman’s ready to go, we can do that. If Yoel [Romero] is the fight they want, I’ll pretty much have to be a co-main event to somebody. It better be Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor [in the headliner].”

Penick’s Analysis: 199 might not be as overshadowed as Rockhold might think, because there will be more than a month between the two events. The UFC’s current schedule will have UFC 199 on Memorial Day weekend, skipping a June pay-per-view entirely to get to July 9. That leaves some space in between if Rockhold is open to fighting in May. UFC 198 is going to be the April show, and whether that winds up in New York or elsewhere remains to be seen. Now, depending on how the schedule plays out, Rockhold-Romero being under McGregor-Aldo II and/or Holm-Rousey II could be an acceptable third, though there are still other options to be had for such a big card. I think more than likely Rockhold winds up on UFC 199 anyway with his rematch against Belfort.

[Photo (c) Gary A. Vasquez via USA Today Sports]

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