Former UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold returns to action for the first time since losing the gold when he faces David Branch in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Pittsburgh.
Rockhold would’ve rather have fought Yoel Romero, but said the Cuban fighter turned down the opportunity because he didn’t want a real man’s fight.
“I tried to get everything that made a bit of sense and no one would step up and fight,” Rockhold said on The MMA Hour. “Yoel wanted to delay and get a three-round fight as much as he could. We all know his issues with fighting a real fight. I wanted a fight, and like I said, the delays, I was ready to go. Yoel wanted to delay it into a three-round fight. I mean, let’s call it what it is. I was more than happy to fight Yoel. I would’ve loved the opportunity to end all the talk and shut his mouth. It’s a fight I’ll fight here shortly, I’m sure. I think it would’ve played to his favor and his team’s favor. I think they know where their strengths and I know where mine are. A five-round fight, there’s a reason why title fights are five rounds. That’s a real man’s fight. It’s a real fight. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts. The likelihood of going to the judges and getting decisions is far less going with the wrong man. So, I’m done forcing fights, I’m done giving away fights. I’m going to be tactical. I’m going to be who I am, and I’m going to take back this division.”
If Romero had accepted the fight, it would’ve been his first fight since losing a UFC Interim Middleweight Title fight to Robert Whittaker at UFC 213.
The former UFC Middleweight Champion also asserts that a host of other UFC fighters turned down the chance to fight him.
“Really what it comes down to is, I can’t wait anymore,” Rockhold said. “I had the thought process of waiting for that fight. In June it was Anderson Silva in Rio, he wouldn’t take the fight. Then they moved onto Gegard Mousasi, couldn’t get him to sign the fight. I mean, I went to 205, to Shogun (Rua), to try to get (Fabricio) Werdum (at heavyweight). I’ve tried to get everybody I could possibly think about to get a fight that really got me up, but no one would take a fight, and now we’ve come down to David Branch was the only guy in the top-10 that would take a fight, from June to July to August to September, and it’s time.”
UFC Fight Night: Pittsburgh takes place on Saturday, September 16 from the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with Luke Rockhold and David Branch headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, with a post-show podcast to follow.