Former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold was scheduled to face fellow former champ Chris Weidman in a rematch at UFC 230, but multiple injuries forced him to pull out of the Nov. 3 event. Rockhold defeated Weidman in December 2015. With the two ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the 185-pound division, the winner would have put themselves back in the title picture.
“It was a tough one to accept, but that’s why you have coaching staff and good people around you to kind of guide you in the right way. Man, I didn’t want to accept this fight going away. I wanted it, every (expletive) inch of it. So, I tried everything I could, but unfortunately it’s just too much to work around. I gotta be able to walk into Madison Square Garden, I can’t crawl,” Rockhold said during an appearance on Submission Radio.
The 34-year-old was dealing with complications from a leg surgery and recovering from a broken nose suffered during training. The severity of his injuries left him no choice but to pull out of the fight.
“So, the leg injury has been a (expletive) nightmare. A complete nightmare. It was a misinformed surgery. Unfortunately, I was misguided by a couple of doctors, and I wouldn’t say malpractice, but it was a pretty idiotic move to open me up on the blade of my shin where they did, and everything I learned thus far. It seemed like a superficial surgery, and that’s why I went ahead with it. And sure enough it’s been one of the worst things that I’ve ever dealt with in my life,” he explained.
“I really can’t make any contact with it. It’s on the blade of my shin and it’s such a… like, I was in jeopardy of so many things with this leg and its repercussions if I were to go out there and this thing opened up and an infection got into the bone. It’s just not worth it. I didn’t kick. The whole camp I didn’t use my left leg to kick,” he continued.
“And so, unfortunately after Vegas, I got an infection on my way back home. And then as I thought the leg was doing better and it would be ready to go, it backtracked and opened up and then it was in jeopardy again. It was red, it was inflamed, and it was dangerous, cause the skin has to build up. So anyway, I’m trying to heal that up.”
The broken nose came while grappling. Not only could Rockhold not kick with his left leg, sparring was limited due to the injured nose. To make things even worse, Rockhold sprained his knee.
“I broke my nose in a grappling exchange. I got caught with a wild elbow. And so I was working around both of those, man. It was just too many things. And then on top of that, I’m switching my stance to work with that and sparring with a cage around my face, and ended up spraining my knee, trying to force that. So I think it was a sign in the end that I have to… I wanted to work around every angle I could, but this is, that was it. That was the last straw,” he said.
His coaches urged him to pull out of the fight much earlier, but Rockhold felt like he may be able to push through the injuries. He was wrong and likely extended the healing process.
“The coaches have been trying to push me out of this fight for some time, and come the sprained knee, it was a sign. I don’t think it’s much of anything. It’s gonna be two to three weeks for the knee, but everything else needs significant time to heal,” Rockhold said.
“I couldn’t walk for three days. So, I mean, limping around and not being able to train, it was pretty much it. I couldn’t use my left leg, I couldn’t engage with my (expletive) nose, and I couldn’t walk. So, between the three of them, I think it was a pretty obvious choice. I needed to make a call.”
Rockhold isn’t sure when he’ll be able to schedule another fight. Ideally, he’d be back in the cage at the end of the year or early 2019.
“Next year. We’ll see, man. I’m in shape, I don’t want to lose (it). I’ve done so much to get to this point, and so I’m gonna honor my body, I’m gonna be on my diet and take care of my body, cross train, and I just gotta avoid contact. No contact of the leg. We’re gonna go week by week. But I’m assuming it’s gonna have at least a month of no contact. And that’s the same with the nose really. And I’m not gonna hurt my knee either. So I think a month between all these things,” he said.
“If I really just focus and not set myself back, I should be back in the heat of things. And so I think there’s a chance if something plays out, Dec. 29, it’s not a bad idea. And I know there’s a big card come the beginning of the year. There’s a big card I believe on ESPN or something like that back in New York. We’ll see. We’ll see how it all plays out.”