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Luke Rockhold: Khamzat Chimaev turned down fight, ‘I think that was a wise move for him’

UFC 239: Weigh-ins Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Luke Rockhold still has hopes of reclaiming his spot atop Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) Middleweight division.

Having not fought since a rough Light Heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz in July 2019, Rockhold is expected to get back in action on July 30 at UFC 277 in Dallas, Texas, against Paulo Costa. The former champion has had a tough go since he ruled the throne, having gone 1-3 in the four fights following his crowning achievement against Chris Weidman at UFC 294 in Dec. 2015 (watch highlights).

Now 37, there’s been plenty of speculation as to whether or not we had seen the last of Rockhold inside the Octagon. That was until he booked a fight with rising contender Sean Strickland for Nov. 2021 at UFC 268, only for Rockhold to be forced out with an injury. Betwixt all the speculation, there was also a brief linking to a bout with red-hot Welterweight superstar, Khamzat Chimaev,

“[The challenge] gets me up in the morning,” Rockhold told ESPN MMA. “I’m not here to fight bums. I’m here to fight people that have proven their worth, that gets me excited. I don’t get excited to get up and fight f—king idiots. Honestly, the Sean Strickland thing wasn’t that motivating. Paulo, he’s tested himself against the best and he’s just a f—king piece of s—t, he’s a meathead. So there’s certain parts about him that just get me excited to go correct the situation and get back on top. I want people that motivate me.

“Khamzat didn’t take the fight, by the way, we were set to fight,” he concluded. “He wanted to stay at 170. I think that was a wise move for him at this point.”

Prior to Chimaev’s ascent to the Top 3 of the UFC Welterweight rankings, he had fought twice at Middleweight in his first four UFC bouts and was deciding which division he’d make his push in. Well, that decision was made when taking on and defeating former title challenger Gilbert Burns at UFC 273 this past month (April 9, 2022) (watch highlights).

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