Luke Rockhold will officially embark on a new career as a light heavyweight on Saturday night when he faces Jan Blachowicz on the main card at UFC 239 from Las Vegas.
While this will be his first fight in the division, the former middleweight king has already rocked the boat by declaring his intention to face reigning champion Jon Jones in the very near future and simultaneously taking shots at former No. 1 contender Anthony Smith.
Rockhold used Smith as an example at how shallow the light heavyweight division ranks were at the time when he was preparing to move to the new weight class.
He bashed Smith for earning a title shot at 205 pounds with three wins after he failed to really make a major impact at middleweight during his career with the UFC. That resulted in Smith firing back at Rockhold as the two fighters engaged in a very public and very volatile war of words lasting several months.
A win over Blachowicz could potentially set up Rockhold for a showdown against Smith, who is fresh off a submission victory over multi-time title contender Alexander Gustafsson back in June.
In the aftermath of that fight, Smith said that Rockhold needed to earn his way to a fight against him now that he was on top of the light heavyweight rankings.
In response, Rockhold countered by discounting the potential fight because he’s only interested in the most high profile opponents possible in his new division and he doesn’t believe Smith qualifies.
“I have interest in the biggest fights possible for the best money possible,” Rockhold said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’m a prizefighter and I’ll be seeking the best opportunity there is and Anthony Smith I don’t see as that opportunity at this point.”
Rockhold has made it clear that he hopes to get past Blachowicz on Saturday and the move directly into title contention with an eventual showdown against Jones in the near future.
It remains to be seen if that actually happens but Rockhold isn’t going to toss any more fuel onto the fire when it comes to his feelings about Smith.
Instead, he’s keeping his eyes on the ultimate prize, which is winning the light heavyweight title.
“I’m going to go handle my business and we’re going to see where the lay of the land is,” Rockhold said. “I’ll be proving myself July 6. The time has been well spent. I’m prepared and I’m ready. I know how to shake off that extra time with ease. I’m excited to get back at it and show what I’ve got.”