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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
MMA Junkie Staff

Did ex-UFC champ Luke Rockhold tease a return from retirement already?

Is Luke Rockhold already thinking about a comeback less than five months after retirement?

The former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champion posted on Instagram this past Saturday and seemed to hint, at the very least, at the potential for a return this year.

“Putting the old rig to the test. 2023 could get interesting,” Rockhold posted on the platform with an image of him sitting on top of a tractor tire in a gym while taking a break from sparring.

Rockhold (16-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) this past August lost a Fight of the Night decision to Paulo Costa in the co-main event at UFC 278 in Salt Lake City. Afterward, he said it was time to step away.

Not long after, Rockhold seemed to leave the door open for a return when he posted on Instagram that he wanted to retire for health reasons – but that it was possible he’d return under the right circumstances.

“I want to retire. I want to work on life like I did a f*cking fraction of on my break, but I want to get my f*cking body together, get my health together. Health is wealth, ultimately, and my body is f*cking deteriorating and a fight doesn’t help that,” Rockhold posted at the time. “So, I want to get my body back, but I’ll never close the door (on MMA). Once I get my health fully back, and I get my body where I want, and I start performing and not hurting myself, (then) maybe, maybe, maybe, I’ll make another run at this thing – one, two, three years down the line.”

Rockhold’s return at UFC 278 was his first fight in about three years. He beat Chris Weidman to win the middleweight title at UFC 194 in 2015, but lost it to Michael Bisping in his first attempted title defense.

Rockhold rebounded with a submission of David Branch a September 2017 main event, but that remains his final MMA win – for now, anyway. He was knocked out by Yoel Romero at UFC 221 in an interim middleweight title fight, though Romero missed weight and was ineligible to win the belt. In 2019, he was knocked out by future champion Jan Blachowicz in a light heavyweight bout. His period of inactivity started after that and lasted longer than three years until the Costa fight.

Time will tell if Rockhold decides to return to the sport so quickly after he left it.

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