If you’re amongst the group who cringed when Strikeforce named Keith Jardine as the middleweight division’s top contender you may have more in common with 185-pound champion Luke Rockhold than you think. Based on some recent comments from the 8-1 fighter it seems he too was put off when Jardine’s name surfaced even though he acknowledges the veteran’s past accomplishments and overall ability.
According to Rockhold, the real problem stems from the organization’s lack of deserving options to begin with.
“All the guys that are rated the highest are in the UFC right now,” the American Kickboxing Academy product explained to USA Today. “It’d be nice if we could get some of those guys in our division over here in Strikeforce, because it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere. If they could bring them in to challenge, I’d be more than (willing) to welcome those guys into Strikeforce and put my belt on the line for them.”
As far as “The Dean of Mean”, Rockhold believes he was given the title-shot based on marketability rather than merit.
“They saw Keith Jardine — maybe he’s a big name. He’s a tough opponent. He’s been in there with all the best guys. It’s a fight that’s going to turn some eyes and some ears, I guess, and maybe attract some people to the card, having a bigger name.”
However, just because Rockhold respects Jardine as a fighter doesn’t mean he feels he should be facing him tomorrow night with his belt on the line.
“I can’t say I think he deserves a title shot, but at the same time, I think it’s a tough fight and I’m not taking him lightly,” Rockhold continued before again referring to the lack of divisional depth. “I don’t think many people could say he deserves a title shot, but given the current roster with Strikeforce and the middleweights and contenders and whatnot – Tim Kennedy says he’s having some problems with his body, from what I hear, so he’s not ready to step up. I don’t believe (Ronaldo Souza is) ready for a rematch; I was ready for that, if that were to come.”
Instead, as fate would have it, Rockhold will indeed face Jardine regardless of his feelings on how deserving his opponent may be of the opportunity, and like many fans, the 27-year old will keep his fingers crossed 2012 results in respectable challengers rather than questionable contenders.
Catch Rockhold-Jardine in the main event of Saturday night’s Showtime broadcast, set to start at 10:00 PM EST.