Luke Rockhold may have stepped inside the Octagon for the final time.
A former UFC kingpin may be preparing to call it quits.
That is the mindset of former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, who told Ariel Helwani of ESPN onThursday night that retirement is on his mind, adding that it is “very” possible he never fights again.
“I have no interest in fighting right now,” said the 35-year-old.
Just under four years ago, Rockhold found himself firmly atop the middleweight mountain, defeating then-undefeated champion Chris Weidman at UFC 194 to capture UFC gold. With the win, fans and pundits alike boldly declared the beginning of the “Rockhold Era”, one predicted to last for years to come.
One left hook from rival Michael Bisping changed everything.
Losing his crown at UFC 199 to Bisping, a foe he had easily defeated two years earlier, in his very first title defence certainly wasn’t Rockhold’s destiny. A heap of nagging injury kept the former champion out of action for 15 months following the shocking upset, but Rockhold remained confident he would easily catapult back into the title picture.
A win over David Branch seemed to illustrate that point, but sadly for the former champion, his success in the Octagon would be short-lived. In each of his next two outings, Rockhold was brutally stopped, first at the hands of Cuban destroyer Yoel Romero at UFC 221, and then again over a year later at the hands of light heavyweight slugger Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239 this past July. Rockhold suffered a broken jaw in the process, prompting UFC president Dana White to openly call for the former champion’s retirement.
Now, three months removed from his latest setback, it appears Rockhold himself is beginning to see things the same way as UFC brass.
At this point, why not call it a career?
That may sound harsh, but fighting is an all or nothing sport. One cannot have one foot in and one foot out. The stakes are simply too high. The mere fact that Rockhold is openly discussing retirement is an indication that the time is right. Why put the mind and body through another greuling training camp and fight if there is any doubt surrounding a fighter’s desire and/or ability to compete?
As the final champion of Strikeforce and a former UFC champion, the California native’s legacy in the sport is firmly cemented, regardless of what he decides to do next.
Rockhold also has the luxury of having other avenues to pursue outside of fighting. The man is the face of a line of Ralph Lauren cologne. In fact, he has stated numerous times that he would be willing to put his MMA career on hold in order to maximize the potential of his career as a professional model if the right opportunity presented itself.
Now is as good a time as any. Walk away from the sport with all of your faculties intact, being able call yourself a former world champion, all the while making a great living without getting punched in the face. Sounds like a pretty great deal for somebody with “no interest in fighting right now.”
Of course, should Rockhold get the “itch” that countless retired fighters have dealt with, he has most definitely earned the right to go out on his terms. More importantly, for all that he has accomplished inside the Octagon, he has earned the respect of his peers, media members and fight fans the world over.
If this is indeed the end of the road for the former middleweight ruler, the man has nothing to be ashamed of. The best stories have their fair share of ups and downs. One look at his resume and it becomes clear: Luke Rockhold was one of the best around.