Luke Rockhold would like to make one thing absolutely clear: Chris Weidman's win over Vitor Belfort at UFC 187 on Saturday did nothing to diminish the reigning middleweight champion's standing in his eyes.
But it did nothing to raise his standing, either.
"He fought a deflated Belfort. Vitor had no heart," Rockhold told Bleacher Report on Wednesday afternoon. "Look at the difference in him when he showed up last week to what we've seen in the past. Chris is a tough guy, but that fight didn't prove anything. Vitor had one burst, and then he was done. He quit."
Weidman survived a Belfort onslaught early in the first round before taking his challenger to the mat, using hellacious ground-and-pound and finishing him by TKO. In a way, Weidman's performance put an emphatic stamp on the era of testosterone replacement therapy for which Belfort was the poster child.
Rockhold, who has been vocal about his displeasure for performance-enhancing drugs and those who use them, felt a special bit of glee at seeing Belfort dispatched so violently.
After the bout, discussion turned to who would be Weidman's next challenger. Rockhold, currently ranked No. 1 (behind Weidman) in the UFC's official rankings, said he is "more than confident" he—and not the Brazilian grappling powerhouse Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza—will be the man selected as Weidman's next foe.
Rockhold is the logical contender. He's ranked higher in the division and has more quality wins. And though it was years ago at this point, Rockhold does own a win over Souza at a Strikeforce event in 2011.
In fact, Rockhold said the UFC will be returning to Las Vegas in September and that a main event with Weidman would just about be perfect. He'd like to face Weidman in Madison Square Garden, but that won't happen until December, if it happens at all.
Professional mixed martial arts is still illegal in New York, but recent signs from the New York legislation seem encouraging that this might finally be the year the UFC is able to run a show at the legendary New York City venue.
Rockhold has a solution.
"I'll beat him in September in Las Vegas, and then we can have a rematch for my belt in Madison Square Garden," Rockhold said.
You must forgive Rockhold if it seems he's being cocky. It's just that he believes he matches up very well with the middleweight champion, and he doesn't mind saying so. He has a case for this fervent self-belief, especially after his stunning ground performance in a submission win over Lyoto Machida earlier this year.
"I'm better than him everywhere," Rockhold said. "I see it as a fight that will be on the feet. He's used to guys that don't want to go to the ground with him, but I don't mind the ground. I am going to control the fight and I'm going to get in his face. I'm not going anywhere.
"I'm a tactician. I'm a southpaw," he concluded. "Everything matches up perfectly for me."
Jeremy Botter covers mixed martial arts for Bleacher Report.