The next UFC fight card on the horizon is UFC Fight Night 101, which will emanate from sun-soaked Melbourne, Australia this coming Saturday (November 26). The card will be headlined by a middleweight contender showdown between Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson – but this is not the headliner fans in Australia originally anticipated.
Instead, the UFC’s return to Melbourne was initially supposed to be headlined by a middleweight bout between former champion Luke Rockhold and top-ranked contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. The pair have met once before, back in 2011, and this time around, their clash could well have produced the next middleweight title challenger.
On the most recent episode of Australia’s Submission Radio, Rockhold shed some light on the injury that forced him out of the bout.
“A small bundle pulled off the ACL at the attachment point. I’m trying to go through the natural process of healing which they say there’s a high potential of it reconnecting itself… I’m trying to do everything I can to avoid surgery. That’s key for me because any time you go into ACL – orthoscopic or reconstruction it’s a good 12 months out, pretty much. I’ve been told potentially in a couple of months it could reattach itself and then I can start kicking again.”
This inability to kick properly is ultimately what influenced Rockhold to withdraw. Though he was tempted to fight injured, he knew his kicks would be a pivotal tool against Jacare – just as they were in their first fight – and without them, he’d be at much greater risk of coming up short.
“It’s weird because it feels good in so many ways but the moment I kick it feels like my knee is gonna fall apart – if I’m kicking at full power. So I’m just trying to lay off that – not trying to aggravate it – and heal up.”
“I tried to working around it and if the kick didn’t land flush it really felt like my knee was gonna fall apart. I know I need to show up. This is not the time to go out there and have a half-ass performance. Jacare’s no slouch so I knew I needed my left kick the last time around for Jacare, and I knew I needed it this time. It’s my biggest weapon and not being able to kick is something I dealt with last time. I tried to avoid kicking and certain things you can’t work around leading into a fight.”
Provided his injury heals properly, Rockhold is optimistic that he’ll be able to return around March.
“Given the time table of what’s going on with my potential recovery and Bisping and Yoel Romero probably not fighting until February or March, I think that’s a good time frame. If I can get in that frame around March, that would be perfect for me.”
Rockhold also touched on a few possible opponents for his return, such as Gegard Mousasi and Jacare. If he had his pick, he’d shoot for the latter.
“If I have a guaranteed title shot to fight Mousasi then I’d love to but I’m not looking to fight the next guy – fight Mousasi and then have Jacare try to jump me for that shot… I have a lot of respect for Mousasi but I want to get right back at it. I want my title shot…Jacare’s the most clear-cut way back to the title. I’m not looking to fight another guy and have there be a question mark about who gets the next shot. I’m gonna go straight down the throat. I’m gonna get Jacare, finish my business with Jacare, and make no ifs, ands, or buts who’s the next in line to get that shot, whether it’s Bisping or Yoel.”
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