In 2016, the idea of Luke Rockhold getting respect would have been laughable for Michael Bisping. Fast forward five years and “The Count” is now calling for his former arch-rival to get more of it from fans and fighters.
Rockhold hasn’t entered the Octagon since 2019. Following a knockout defeat to current Bellator star Yoel Romero, the veteran moved up to challenge Jan Blachowicz at light heavyweight. In their UFC 239 main card clash, the Polish powerhouse brutally KO’d Rockhold in the second round.
After over two years away from action, the former 185-pound champ was set to make his return at UFC 268 next month. Rockhold was scheduled to clash with the charismatic and controversial Sean Strickland inside New York’s prestigious Madison Square Garden. However, after suffering two herniated disks in his back, the 36-year-old was forced to withdraw from the November 6 card.
One man who was disappointed to hear the news of the cancelation was Bisping. In a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Britain’s only UFC champion said he had been looking forward to Rockhold’s return against “Tarzan.” He even believed his former bitter foe would have emerged victorious at the November pay-per-view.
His opinion contrasts with that of a large section of the MMA community. Many believe Rockhold is finished as an elite fighter and has no hope of returning to title contention. According to Bisping, fighters and fans should show the “formidable” Californian much more respect than he currently gets.
“I was really looking forward to that fight. I don’t know who would’ve won, but I would probably, if you asked me, I would’ve put my money on Luke because Luke was fired up, Luke wants to be the champion again, and he wants to get back that respect. Because that’s what I’m talking about here. A lot of people, even fans and other fighters, aren’t giving Luke the respect that he deserves. He definitely deserves respect, let me tell you, 100%.
“Listen, sometimes he says dumb stuff, but the man is a formidable fighter. He’s a force to deal with inside the Octagon.”
Strickland appeared to have a different attitude in mind following news of Rockhold’s injury. The #7-ranked middleweight suggested the former champ was always going to pull out, and even claimed Rockhold had stormed out of a gym after sparring him.
Considering the comparisons drawn between the pair in the past, Bisping and Strickland certainly have polar-opposite views when it comes to Rockhold.
Nevertheless, Bisping’s reaction is a far cry from the words we became used to seeing him exchange with Rockhold during their heated rivalry back in the day. Having lost to the former champ in 2014, “The Count” exacted his revenge by dethroning him via a first-round knockout in 2016.
Since Bisping’s retirement, the pair have appeared much more cordial with each other, and often interact at Jason Parillo’s gym in California. We all love a good rivalry in MMA, but it’s always nice to see two enemies bury the hatchet years later.
Do you agree with Michael Bisping? Does Luke Rockhold deserve more respect?