Newly-crowned Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is scheduled to make his first title defense this Saturday night, taking on MMA veteran and debuting middleweight Keith Jardine.
Having defeated the highly-regarded Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza to earn the title and extend his current winning streak to seven straight, Rockhold finds himself less thrilled at the prospect of facing Jardine, an aging journeyman whose last bout resulted in a draw, than rematching Jacare or taking on Tim Kennedy – which is to say nothing of his desire to face those top-ranked middles in the UFC.
Speaking with USA Today recently, Rockhold spoke about facing the 36-year-old Jardine.
“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,” said Rockhold. “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 Jacare’s ready for a rematch; I was ready for that, if that were to come.
“They saw Keith Jardine — maybe he’s a big name. He’s a tough opponent,” he went on. “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.”
Rockhold will put his title on the line against Jardine this weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the two men meeting in the main event of the evening. FightLine will be back on the night with live, ongoing coverage of the event.