Former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold is the latest in a line of disgruntled UFC fighters who feel a disconnect between themselves and the new WME-IMG owners. Al Iaquinta and legend Anderson Silva have also recently voiced their discontent as well. And there are plenty of others. Rockhold was on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani on Monday and shared his frustration about the middleweight division being held up and wants its top players to stand in a united front.
“If they’re not putting an interim title on the line, or if they’re not making Bisping fight a contender, I’m not fighting anybody,” Rockhold said. “And so should the rest of the division, too. What’s the point? Without me, Mousasi, Yoel, and Whittaker? I think everyone should just stand their ground, and say f*ck you. Put a title on the line or else, f*ck, you don’t even have a division.”
Questioned if he was talking about a middleweight strike, Rockhold continued, “I think everyone is already on strike, aren’t they? We’re all waiting on a title. Whittaker’s down. I’ve voiced my opinion, and I think Mousasi should stand his ground too. I mean, without us you have no f*cking division. Make something happen.”
Middleweight champion Michael Bisping is waiting on a fight against former welterweight great Georges St-Pierre, and that fight could take place as late as November. Also, if GSP were to win, there’s no guarantee that he will even defend the title at 185-pounds. Rockhold’s frustration stems from the fact that there’s no clear path to the title now and the perception that it’s now more about “money fights” than the best fighting the best.
“It’s a joke,” Rockhold said. “The company’s kind of losing it these days. What happened to the old company where the best fought the best, and what built this sport? Now it’s just a spectator sport. They’re putting freak shows together.”
With more and more UFC fighters voicing their displeasure with the way things are being run now, is it possible this could lead to them banning together and taking off their gloves until certain demands are met? And would the impersonal corporate giant WME-IMG even bat an eye, or simply replace them with the next hot up-and-comers who are just looking for a shot at the big show?
Freak show fights have always been a part of MMA though and the UFC. From day one. And the line of entertainment and sport was blurred a long long time ago. The WME-IMG ownership will be amping up the entertainment aspect because, frankly, that’s where the money is and that is their background and what they are good at. How their approach will affect the company and sport long term remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, more fighters are actively speaking out against the company than ever before and somewhere sometime, something has to give.