Luke Rockhold Done at Middleweight, Plotting Move to Light Heavyweight in 2019

Former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold says he’s done with the division and he’s moving up to 205 pounds for his next fight when he returns to action in 2019.

Luke Rockhold is done killing himself to compete at middleweight.

The former 185-pound champion has declared his intention to move to the light heavyweight division after teasing that same decision throughout 2018 but then ultimately booking a fight against Chris Weidman at UFC 230 in New York.

Unfortunately, Rockhold’s body couldn’t hold up and he was forced to pull out of the fight and that was the final straw to tell him it was time to move up to light heavyweight.

“Getting stronger is the recipe, light heavyweight is the course,” Rockhold told Submission Radio this week. “I’m coming for these guys, man. I’m just not really impressed with what’s going on right now in that division and I’m tired of compromising my body. And I’m a better fighter where I fight naturally and bigger and I’m long overdue moving up and I’m done with middleweight. It’s time to move up.”

According to Rockhold, he had already plotted a move to 205 pounds but when the UFC came calling with an opportunity to compete on the card at Madison Square Garden in November, it was too good to pass up.

He tried to get through a full training camp while still nursing a shin injury that had hampered him for much of 2018 but the strain was just too much.

“I was ready to move up, and then they enticed me with that fight to get to Madison Square Garden and I made myself believe I can do it, but your body breaks down in camp,” Rockhold explained. “Everything just starts falling apart when my weight gets down further and further, and when the stress of the fight builds up my body just falls apart.

“So, it’s been meaning to happen for the last few years. I’ve been killing myself for many years now trying to make that weight. It makes me less of a fighter. So, I’m ready to move on and I’m ready to light these guys up.”

Light heavyweight has struggled in recent years to add more top flight talent with the majority of the top five ranked fighters staying largely the same no matter who else joins the division.

That’s changed in recent months with several middleweights including Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos moving up to 205 pounds and injecting new life into the division.

Rockhold doesn’t seem all that impressed by any of them and believes a truly elite fighter is about to arrive at light heavyweight when he finally returns next year.

“You’ve got guys making waves at light heavyweight that are somewhat laughable, you know? Couple of middleweight washouts reaching into the top 10 within a few fights, it’s… the division is open, I’m ready to feast,” Rockhold said.

“Anthony Smith, yeah. I mean, what, Santos came up just recently too. These guys, I’m just not impressed. Not impressed with these guys. They’re a little sloppy in so many ways and I see openings and I’m ready to move up. I mean, the rest of the division, there’s a couple of good guys up there, but I don’t see much. I’m ready to come up and I’m ready to shut it down.”

Smith is one fighter in particular who drew ire from Rockhold when he was examining the current crop of light heavyweights in the division.

Smith has gone undefeated at 205 pounds including a recent submission win over former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir, who is teammates with Rockhold at the Hard Knocks 365 gym in Florida.

That doesn’t seem to impress Rockhold much when it comes to his assessment of Smith’s performance thus far in the light heavyweight division.

“He looked like s—t,” Rockhold said about Smith’s last fight. “He didn’t look good in his last fight. I’m not gonna say… he looked like a bum, truthfully.”

Right now the main goal for Rockhold is getting healthy again so he can start accepting opponents in his new home at 205 pounds.

He truly believes he’ll be in the title race sooner rather than later once his body is healed and he’s ready to compete again.

“I’ve got some pretty marketable match-ups (offered from the UFC). I just gotta get healthy. When I’m healthy, when I’m cleared, then we can see who’s available, and it’s gonna be one of the very top guys,” Rockhold teased.

“I’m not messing around, I’d like one or two fights before I jump into the winner of one of those (title) fights, and so I want to get comfortable. Obviously it is moving up, I’m putting on some weight and I want to feel it out, get my body ready for it.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.