After revealing that contract negotiations for his next fight weren't going so smoothly with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brass, nobody knew for sure when former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold would make his return to the Octagon following his UFC 199 title loss to Michael Bisping. Rockhold even acknowledged that a budding modeling career could keep him away from action even longer.
But like the true fighter he is, Rockhold decided to sign the dotted line for a comeback fight opposite Ronaldo Souza at UFC 101 on Nov. 27 from Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. The two met once before for the Strikeforce title back in 2011, which saw Rockhold win a unanimous decision. According to Rockhold, he had to fight UFC tooth-and-nail for every penny he thought he was worth.
"They restructured the deal for the time being, and so we got a new contract," said Rockhold during a recent appearance on Extra Rounds podcast (transcribed by MMA Fighting). "We got a new contract upping the money, and we got the right fight so I think this will be the best fight for me right now to get me back to the title. I think we're clearly the best two guys in the division, so this will solidify myself to going back and getting my gold back."
The former 185-pound champion further detailed his previous contract with UFC and why it's important to get as much money as possible for his violent services.
"I signed my contract with the UFC back before I fought Machida," explained Rockhold. "I had confidence in myself to win the title and I thought that I'd find myself in a better situation but the contract fell back - before I was able to restructure it - to a place where I wasn't really happy with it. Seeing what I fell back to and knowing what I've accomplished and my credibility in the sport, I wasn't happy with what they were offering. It's gonna take more than that to get me to fight. I've got other avenues outside the sport, and I'm not gonna go fight when it's not worth it. I gotta get my due, I've gotta get my worth. No matter how much I love fight, and what I'm doing out here, I need to get f*cking paid."
With guys like Conor McGregor making millions per appearance and inexperienced circus attractions like CM Punk raking in $500,000 for his first professional mixed martial arts (MMA) bout, other fighters have begun to voice their need for more money. Current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson joined the list when he recently demanded $2 million for a superfight with bantamweight king Dominick Cruz.
"I think we're in a transition period," added Rockhold. "I think there's definitely positive change in the sport and people are starting to realize it's about leverage in the right situation and understanding your worth... These guys are trying to keep you down on these paychecks, keep you hungry, keep you needing more."
While MMA fans are happy that one of the best middleweights in the world will make another appearance in 2016, it wasn't easy for Rockhold to pull the trigger. Unfortunately for UFC and the hand that writes the checks, Rockhold won't be the last fighter to demand his presumed worth.