It has been four months since Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight No. 1 contender Luke Rockhold choked out former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC on FOX 15, and two months since Dana White declared him the next man to challenge 185-pound kingpin Chris Weidman.
Rockhold (14-2), who has been jockeying with former foe Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in the middleweight title sweepstakes throughout the year, has frequently tugged at the "All-American's" cape, all while making deposits into his personal bank account.
"I’m trying to stay active. I’ve been around a lot and I’ve done a lot of promotional work and made appearances; just trying to make money with all this time I have off," Rockhold told MMAmania.com. "When I’m on the road in Florida, I’m trying to get what I can from different trainers and better myself in any way. I’m home right now. I’ve been training all week."
Rumors of Rockhold fighting Souza in a title eliminator rematch were rebuked by the former, who has been assured by White and the promotion's "higher ups" that he's getting the next middleweight title shot, with the fight taking place later this year.
However, if it came down to it, Rockhold wouldn't mind beating up Souza a second time.
"I do expect to fight by the end of the year. I think that New Year’s card would potentially be the latest," said Rockhold. "I’m getting a bit restless. If Weidman were to get injured in the middle of a training camp – depending on the injury – of course. I’m not here to sit around all year and waste the time of my life. I’d be happy to go in and spank on 'Jacare' Souza."
Weidman has incurred a litany of injuries over the last 12 months, including a broken hand and rib, which forced him to postpone his most recent title defense against Vitor Belfort (twice). Rockhold's American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) camp has been criticized by White for its "stone age" training methods, which have played a part in former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez's injury woes.
While he has seen the effect injuries had on fighters around him, sympathy is one emotion Rockhold is unwilling to feel when it comes to Weidman's case.
"I don’t necessarily sympathize with him, but I guess I could understand to a certain extent," Rockhold said. "It’s beyond that. Weidman doesn’t want to fight all the time. He does get injured from time to time and he has a family. I understand that, but I want to turn this title over and I think he enjoys his off-time a little too much. He has a little too much outside the cage to keep him in a constant fight program."
After fighting five times in a 16-month period, Weidman only competed four times over the last three years due to shoulder, hand, and rib troubles. In contrast, the 30-year-old Rockhold fought four times over a 15-month period between Jan. 2014-Apr. 2015.
If he is to emerge victorious against Weidman, he plans on continuing to fight as often as possible and refraining from relationships.
"I’m going to rectify that situation for the middleweights out there and when I get the title from Weidman, I’m going to keep fighting, and that’s why I’ve kept my life single," said Rockhold, who is probably glad this didn't work out. "It might put some fire under his ass. He’s been on top for so long and he’s undefeated. A little cockier side is coming out of him and I’m going to bring him back down to earth."
Weidman holds a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) record of 13-0, 9-0 in UFC. He's made three defenses of his title, but it appeared after his most recent win that he was unhappy with the lack of support he's been receiving from the UFC fan base.
Similarly, Rockhold has fought for recognition since setting foot inside the Octagon. He arrived in the organization as the last Strikeforce 185-pound champion, but it was not enough to get him to the front of the line to challenge then pound-for-pound star Anderson Silva.
Now, riding a four-fight win streak, Rockhold is sitting pretty in his No. 1 contender spot and the way he sees it, Weidman just doesn't have the skills -- or personality -- to acquire more believers.
"He wants people to join the team and he doesn’t have the most exciting fight style. He’s got to supplement it in other ways," said Rockhold. "Some people can do it naturally with their personality and some can do it with their fight style. Some have to force it. Unfortunately for him, it seems very forced these days."
His date with Weidman might be up in the air, but his confidence is not. The New York native's latest first-round dismissal of Belfort back at UFC 187, however, did not impress Rockhold.
"It’s very apparent that he has a lot of holes in his game and he’s still a growing fighter. I see it and I’m going to expose it. That’s exactly what it is. Anybody that knows MMA can see that he’s definitely green in a lot of areas," Rockhold said. "He doesn’t seem the most coordinated, athletic fighter. He doesn’t have a lot of finesse and I think he gets by on his toughness and wrestling."
"The Phenom" became the third-straight Brazilian conquered by Weidman, with the other two being "The Spider" and "The Dragon," who were both 38 and 37, respectively, at the time they faced the champion.
Despite also handing Machida a loss, which resulted in him gaining the No. 1 contender position, Rockhold isn't all too impressed with Weidman's overall resume and he doesn't plan on changing his style prior to them facing off.
"He’s fought a bunch of old Brazilians that have been scared of that and there’s a new wave of guys coming up that he’s about to encounter. I’m coming at him full steam," Rockhold said. "I’m going to work on my wrestling defense more, but that’s about it. If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it. It’s not just about beating my opponent, it’s about going out there and making a statement and trying to reach my potential."