The return of Luke Rockhold (16-5) is once again going to be delayed. The former UFC middleweight champion took to Instagram last night and posted to his story that he has a herniated disk in his back and is out of his upcoming fight.
Rockhold was scheduled to fight Sean Strickland (24-3) at UFC 268 next month at Madison Square Garden. The two men have had a lot of heat leading up to this fight and many were looking forward to this intriguing middleweight contest.
Rockhold said on his Instagram Story, “There’s no really easy way it but the fight is off in New York. I ended up herniating a disk in my back, L4 L5. The doctors say it’s nothing I can play with. I need to do some treatment and have some recovery time. Some things just aren’t meant to be.”
The UFC former champion went on to tell Ariel Helwani that there’s no surgery needed for his back. He has to get treatment and have about six weeks of physical training before they think he’ll be ready to resume fight preparations.
The UFC’s Plans
The good news for the UFC is that the card next month in New York is absolutely stacked. They are not going to miss this middleweight contest too bad, but it’s still a good fight that is no longer on the card.
This was a very important fight for the middleweight division. Rockhold was returning to the middleweight division for the first time since 2018. If he could’ve won impressively, he would provide an interesting new wrinkle to the picture at 185.
However, if Strickland was able to win, it would’ve been huge for his progression. A win over a former UFC champion that would’ve made it six in a row overall for the seventh ranked middleweight in the division.
A win over Rockhold could’ve put Strickland only a win or two away from UFC title contention. Given the timeline, I’m not sure the promotion will try to book this fight again. There’s no word at this time whether or not they’ll keep Strickland on the card just with a different opponent. This will be a story to watch.