Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will try to reclaim the title in 2018 when he faces off against Robert Whittaker in Australia at UFC 221.
The 33-year-old Rockhold (16-3) rebounded from a 2016 loss to Michael Bisping that cost him the title by submitting David Branch this past September via strikes. He is 6-1 over his last seven, including wins over Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida and Bisping.
Rockhold believes that should have been enough to make him the No. 1 contender, but he was called out by the likes of Kelvin Gastelum for earning the spot over the former Ultimate Fighter winner.
“I know I’ve proven myself, I’ve accomplished things in this sport, whereas little midgets like Kelvin Gastelum haven’t,” said Rockhold, during a media scrum in Australia attended by Submission Radio. “I’ve destroyed Chris Weidman, which he got destroyed by Weidman, so it’s like (whatever). This kid hasn’t beaten really anybody and done anything in this sport, and for him to run his mouth, it’s pretty funny. It’s laughable. He’ll find out real if he continues his efforts at 185. I’d slap that kid down real quick. Real quick.”
As for his own prep work ahead of meeting Whittaker, Rockhold is planning on remaining in Florida and not returning to his old training center in San Jose at American Kickboxing Academy.
“No, I haven’t been (back to AKA). I did my last camp in Florida with Henri (Hooft) and the whole team out there, and I’ve got a great thing going, he said. “You know, I got complacent back home and did some things. It’s nice to just get away, get a clear head and have nothing to hold me back in a new environment. I’m inspired, I got a lot of good people around me. You know, AKA’s not what it used to be. Like, you get guys filtering in and out, but, I mean, Cain’s (Velasquez) been injured, Khabib’s (Nurmagomedov) always in Russia, DC’s (Daniel Cormier) doing TV. I gotta look out for myself. I love my brothers and my team out there and you’ll see a lot of them in my corner I’m sure, but this is time to be the best I can be and think about myself right now.”
UFC 221 takes place February 10 from Perth, Western Australia and airs live on pay-per-view.