UFC middleweight contender, Luke Rockhold kicked off 2014 in pretty amazing style when he TKO'd Costas Philoppou with a series of liver kicks that resulted in a $50,000 knockout of the night bonus. It was just what he needed after Vitor Belfort scored a KO victory over him almost a year ago, only the second loss in his career. That night was a wake-up call for Luke, and he decided to make the most of it, going back to the proverbial drawing board and fine tuning his skillset. The proof was in the pudding, as was evidenced in his very next Octagon outing against Philippou.
Now, just four months later, he's back in the hot seat again and will be facing off against the very tough, Tim Boetsch tonight. In a recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Rockhold discussed how badly he wants to avenge that loss to Belfort, the desire to "shut Michael Bisping up", and his routine of watching fight tape, from fighters in all the weight classes, so that he might acquire new skills. Here's what he had to say:
He can be dangerous if I let him. I think it's up to me to fight my fight. As long as I stick to my game and my skillset, I should be able to make this mine everywhere. I think I can control my distance from the outside and pick him apart. He's going to find out real quick that he can't stand with me, so he'll rush in. I just have to make sure I don't get into some ugly brawl; I'm past that stage in my career. I've reached a point both mentally and physically where my training and technique allows for a smarter, much more well-executed fight.
The Loss to Belfort
Maybe that kick knocked some sense into me [laughs]. I think losing gave me some perspective and it made me rethink my game and how I fight. I got really emotional and didn't perform anywhere near my potential. After that fight, I became more focused in the gym, and I learned how to relax more. I think it helped me turn a corner to refine my game.
I doubt we'll see him back this year. It's going to be a while, I think. Obviously something happened with the test he took. Everyone knows he took a test and now he's disappeared. Something's not being said. Everyone knows that he has the right to refuse to reveal his test results. I think if he was innocent, he would reveal it. Why wouldn't he? I think he tested dirty. What's he doing now? Who knows. He might be getting punished. Nobody knows what's going on with him.
Shutting Bisping's mouth once and for all is a bonus in my mind, and to get a paycheck for doing that is even better. If it's a step back or not, I don't really care. I'm 29 years old and I'm in this to make money. Eventually I'll get my shot at the belt, but the division is pretty tied up right now, so why not go beat his ass? I would enjoy being able to shut his mouth. I mean, Tim Kennedy already did that, but I would put an exclamation point on it.
The rankings don't mean shit. I beat Jacare and he's ranked above me. I wouldn't be too surprised if they put Tim Kennedy in front of me. I don't agree with the ranking system. Even Vitor getting knocked out of the top isn't right.
I don't understand them putting Machida where he's at. He's tough and he could be that guy, but to rank him so high after beating Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousassi. To move him into the Number 1 contender spot, he would have to beat a top guy wouldn't he?
Student of the Sport
I'm a huge fan of mixed martial arts and I love to watch fights and fight tape. If someone is doing something I like, I might take it home and try it, or maybe seek out their trainer for tips. Maybe I'll take it to my gym so we can drill it. We can always learn from others and can take bits and pieces of their techniques, a certain skill they have, whatever it may be. I look for things like that when I watch fights.
I'm always trying to up my level and add new tools to my game. I want to constantly evolve and get better. I have taken stuff from all kinds of guys. I'm watching Jon Jones, Anthony Pettis and TJ Dillashaw. Duane Ludwig and his teachings, I see all sorts of things in that style that I like.
I watch DC (Daniel Cormier) and Cain (Velasquez) all the time, to get down good wrestling moves. I like watching Yoel Romero. He's got good technique too. Lots of guys have moves and techniques that I like and I'm always looking for something I can take and try out. Does it work for me or not? Keep it or throw it out? There's always room for improvement and I constantly strive to be the best fighter I can possibly be.
Fast Track To the Title
Here's the thing, I'm not looking for the fast track. I don't want to be gifted with anything, and I want to earn my spot. I'm not one of those guys who's going to be calling for a title shot when I haven't earned it. I want to be the best guy in the division. If I'm going to be the champion one day, I want to beat Vitor Belfort first. I'm not going to be the best guy in the world until I beat him. I've got to redeem myself to get my clean slate. I believe I can and I will do that one day soon, I hope. Right now, I have Tim Boetsch in front of me, and that's what I'm focused on right now.
You can follow Luke via his Twitter account, @LukeRockhold