After former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight kingpin Brock Lesnar decided he had seen enough of the Octagon, following his first round technical knockout loss to Alistair Overeem at UFC 141: "Lesnar vs. Overeem" this past weekend (Dec. 30, 2011), the gates were left wide open for new stars to emerge and possibly take the place of the massive pay-per-view draw that was Lesnar.
Though the UFC has plenty of star power on its roster with champions such as Jon Jones, Junior dos Santos and Anderson Silva, Rockhold believes a lot of fighters weren't given their proper due because Brock was always promoted as "the best."
Sour grapes? Or reality check?
The American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) product claims Lesnar was never really the best, rather he was just built up by the media and played a role -- all while getting the right fights at the right time, therefore creating the grand illusion that the 6' 3," 265-pound behemoth was "The Baddest Man on the Planet."
Rockhold elaborates to ESPN1100/98.9 FM in Las Vegas (via Yahoo! Sports) and says now that Lesnar is gone, it's due time to start focusing on the "true fighters."
Check it out:
"I think he was just playing a role. I saw right through him. His confidence looked very ... it didn't appear real. Did you see him singing the rap country? When he started rapping along to the country song I was like ' what the hell is this guy doing?' I almost saw his lip quivering as he was walking into the cage. He just looked like he was playing a role. He was kind of believing his own hype that people were putting in his ear. I saw true confidence out of Overeem and a true fighter. Lesnar's what I thought. All the media and all you guys had Lesnar taking it. The fighters had Overeem. I think he brought a whole new audience to the sport. So I can't exactly say it's a negative. People really need to see who the true fighters are. Lesnar's not the best in the world. He just got the right matchups and the right fights."
If you were asked to identify all the Strikeforce and UFC champions, you would probably have no trouble picking them out of a line-up. Most of them, some more than others, had their time to shine in the spotlight and get promoted by their respective organizations.
However, some may have trouble identifying Luke Rockhold.
Not because he isn't talented; he is very talented, actually, amassing an 8-1 overall mixed martial arts (MMA) record and currently holding the Strikeforce middleweight championship.
Rockhold simply has not had his opportunity to shine and be promoted as a champion.
Overshadowed by titleholders such as Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Gilbert Melendez, and non-champions such as a fighter that holds the biggest shadow of them all, Brock Lesnar, Luke's star has been dimmed in the company of those men.
Now, Rockhold will get his opportunity to stand out and become a breakout star of his own as he headlines his first-ever Strikeforce event as a champion when he takes on grizzled veteran Keith Jardine this Saturday night (Jan. 7, 2012) in Las Vegas, Nevada, at Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine," live from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Will Rockhold show he has what it takes to becomes one of MMA's next biggest stars? Or will Jardine slow his momentum and begin his own trail back to stardom?