Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, who recently pulled out of what is likely the promotion's final event, defended himself Monday against claims he is ducking opponent Lorenz Larkin and exaggerating the severity of his wrist injury in order to wait for a shot in the UFC.
"I would never duck anybody in the whole world. The fact is I can’t train, and I’m not gonna fight one-handed," Rockhold told journalist Ariel Helwani during Monday's MMA Hour broadcast. "I agreed to a date way back when. I told them I should be healthy. But it arose a little too fast and I wasn’t able to train. I’d fight Lorenz Larkin any day. To me that’s easy money. I’m not trying to push my way into the UFC this way."
Larkin quickly responded to Rockhold's withdraw on Twitter, implying Rockhold wasn't seriously injured. Larkin then told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview that he didn't believe Rockhold was "mentally tough."
"Pretty much everything I've heard out of his mouth is bull[crap]," Rockhold said of Larkin. "...It does piss me off. He’s saying I’m mentally weak? When have I ever shown signs of mental weakness in a fight? We all heard him cry in his last fight. He needs to know his place. I think I’ve proved my place."
Rockhold estimated he would return to the cage in about four months, well past Strikeforce's presumptive swan song, set for January 12. Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez also withdrew from the card, citing injury.
Rockhold said his wrist injury, which is the same one that kept him out of his initial Nov. 3 date with Larkin, was preventing adequate training, and added that he was treating the injury aggressively.
"I’ve got a tear in my TFCC," Rockhold said. "I’ve done a series of cortisone shots, three weeks in a hard cast, [platelet-rich plasma therapy]. I can’t grip. I can’t use my hands. It’s been tough lately."
Rockhold intimated that a hard makeup date was not confirmed until late in the process.
"I heard late January and I was hoping I’d be ready," Rockhold said. "Then they popped the date on me."
Rockhold said he expected to have to win at least once in the UFC before being considered for a shot against champion Anderson Silva. In the meantime, he had some matchmaking suggestions for his return to the cage.
"I’ll be ready to throw down when the time comes. If they want me to enter the UFC fighting Lorenz Larkin, I’d love to," Rockhold said. "I’d like to smash him, shut his mouth, and get him behind me. Beyond that, any top-five opponent."