During an appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Luke Rockhold told Ariel Helwani that he wouldn’t be signing to fight anyone else while both middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre and interim titlist Robert Whittaker are without bookings.
“There’s been talks all along the way, potential this, potential that,” Rockhold said. “They have to make up backup plans. They’re trying to make fights like Yoel Romero right now. Why would I fight Yoel Romero with no one clearcut fighting Whittaker? Obviously I want to fight for the title if that’s available, I’m not going to f*cking sign any fight. I want to fight for the title, and if that’s available, that’s what I’m going to do(via MMAFighting).”
Rockhold might well land one of those opportunities, as Helwani has since reported that preliminary talks are underway for a meeting between the American Kickboxing Academy fighter and Whittaker at UFC 221 in Perth, Western Australia on February 11th.
Preliminary talks are underway to book Robert Whittaker vs. Luke Rockhold for UFC 221 in Perth, Western Australia, sources say. Not 100% just yet, though.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) December 6, 2017
Whittaker captured the interim title with a decision win over the aforementioned Yoel Romero back at UFC 213 in July. He suffered an injury to his knee in the fight that sidelined him for a period afterwards, but as his recent victory in the Australian wrestling trials for the Commonwealth Games attests, he is fit again and ready to return to action at the Perth show.
In possession of the interim belt, ‘The Reaper’ is entitled to a shot at St-Pierre and the legitimate middleweight strap that the Canadian swiped from Michael Bisping last month, but ‘GSP’ is currently suffering from colitis, an illness expected to keep him on the sidelines for quite a while, and still appears to be mulling his future at 185lbs. Thus, Whittaker will have to be satisfied with a fight against a top contender.
Former champion Rockhold lost the title to Bisping via shocking first-round stoppage last summer. That defeat was followed by a lengthy hiatus, but he returned in September of this year to finish former two-weight WSOF champ David Branch inside two rounds. Rockhold currently sits at number two in the UFC middleweight rankings behind Romero, who has already had his crack at interim gold.