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Luke Rockhold talks Herb Dean, 'post USADA' physiques, Weidman, Belfort, Reebok & more

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Newly crowned UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold sits down for his first interview since winning the belt. Topics included Herb Dean's reffing, his foot injury revelation, "post USADA" physiques and performances, who he wants next and much more.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday night, many long days of hard work, effort and sometimes, frustration, were met with the greatest career achievement for newly crowned UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold, when he soundly defeated Chris Weidman, relieving him of his title belt. On a card that will likely register as one of the highest PPV events of the year, if not the highest, Luke put on an impressively dominant performance, all while battling a cellulitis infection.

Luke sat down with the Three Amigos Podcast for his first interview since fight night and discussed a wide range of topics that include his thoughts on what many consider to be questionable reffing by Herb Dean, reaction to critics panning his injury revelation in the post-fight interview, who he'd like to fight next, thoughts on fans and media pundits analyzing "post USADA" physiques and performances, working with the Fitness VT team, why he's not a regular on the dating scene, and much, much more. Here's what the new middleweight champ had to say:

TAP: With this week being such a huge, publicized, PR heavy affair, what was the whole experience like for you?

Luke Rockhold: It was a pretty amazing weekend. With the Irish there, it was just so much energy. I tried not to take it all in too much until the fight was over, but it's still really hard to fathom, what just happened. I don't know...I got the belt [laughs], and that's all that matters. Right now, I'm still just trying to absorb it all.

TAP: One of the big takeaways from the fight was that fans and some media pundits seem to think if Chris hadn't thrown that spinning wheel kick, he would have won the fight, as though you hadn't already taken over the fight. What's your take on that?

Luke Rockhold: I feel like I was in control of the fight. I rocked him early, and I was getting my range. Chris is a tough dude, and I knew I was going to have to find my shots. I feel like whatever he was doing, I wasn't really feeling it, and I knew that my shots and my kicks were affecting him more.

TAP: In Round 3, you were laying quite a beating on Chris, with about 60 or so unanswered shots, yet Herb Dean, for whatever reason, opted not to stop the fight. What were you thinking at that point?

I was thinking to myself, ‘What is going on right now? How is he not stopping the fight?' I don't know what else I needed to do, but you know, that's the fight game, and if it were me, I'd want to go out on my shield and be completely finished. -UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold

Luke Rockhold: In the moment, I was thinking to myself, ‘What is going on right now? How is he not stopping the fight?' I don't know what else I needed to do, but you know, that's the fight game, and if it were me, I'd want to go out on my shield and be completely finished. I was hoping he would stop it, but unfortunately, that didn't happen, and I had to go suck it up another round.

TAP: Chris has come out and said on his Instagram that he already felt like his loss to you has changed him for the better. Do you think he "deserved" his loss, as he said, or is that more him being overcritical of his performance?

Luke Rockhold: Chris is a very religious person, and he needs to find the meaning in some things. I don't know where he's coming from in that respect, but I think the loss is going to be good for him and will better him and help him to learn from his mistakes. The loss I had certainly made me a stronger, better fighter, and I think the same will apply to him.

I see Chris, and I know him pretty well, and the man is a champion, you can't doubt that. In the meantime, though, I'll be right back here, on top [laughs]. He ain't gonna take this from me, I can promise you that.

TAP: You mentioned that you'd battled a staph infection prior to the fight, and there were some that were critical of you revealing that in your post-fight interview. Do you think that people really have a full grasp on just how difficult it is to go into the Octagon at 100%, injury and complication free?

Luke Rockhold: It's pretty hard these days. At this level, training at a gym like mine with all the top dogs, things happen. Cellulitis is similar to a staph infection, is what I had. I'd been on antibiotics all the way up to the fight, and I'm still on them now.

It taxes your body so much. I've never felt anything like that. My arms and everything were just exhausted. After the first round I was like, ‘Oh shit, I need to calm myself down.' I knew going into the fight I had to focus on relaxation, because every little bit of exertion would tax my body, and I felt it previously when I was doing the open workouts. I've never felt so tired.

That's one thing I've never really had to deal with. Injuries are one thing, but something that affects you so internally like that and going into a championship bout, will definitely play some mind games on you.

Luke Rockhold soaks his injured foot Friday, ahead of his title fight with Chris Weidman

Luke Rockhold soaks his injured foot Friday, ahead of his title fight with Chris Weidman

TAP: Was there ever a moment in the lead-up to the fight that you thought to yourself, ‘I need to let someone know what's going on because I'm not sure I'm in the best shape to be fighting for a world title?'

Luke Rockhold: The thought will cross your mind, but you've just got to have faith in your abilities. I know that I can suck it up and I can dig deep when I need to. It was obviously not my ideal situation, but opportunities like this don't come around too often on such a big stage. There's so many people relying on you...I just wanted it so bad, and I knew I was going to get it.

TAP: You mentioned so many people were relying on you. Your gym is very close-knit, with several of you forging lifelong friendships. What's it been like at AKA, both in the lead-up to the fight and in the aftermath?

Luke Rockhold: The look on everyone's face, how they reacted...it's just been so amazing. People there don't need to say too much, because they know how much it means. They've been through this before, and so many people have helped me to get where I am.

This is for the whole team, the family. It's for the people that supported me and helped me get through this, because you can't do it alone. I'm looking forward to getting back in there and helping the other guys on the team get on track, so we can take our spot as one of the best teams ever.

TAP: There are a lot of folks that have been putting the roster under a microscope and making critical analysis of "post USADA" physiques and performances. Do you think those are fair assessments, especially since athletes are still trying to figure out how to make effective weight cuts without IVs, or that those people are onto something, in that we are seeing dramatic changes, Vitor Belfort being the perfect example of a dramatically changed physique?

Luke Rockhold: It's tough to say. I'm guilty of the same. We all analyze these guys and we've seen the changes, how people are morphing and their styles are changing; performances are dropping. It's easy to criticize, but who really knows until someone gets caught?

It's easy to criticize, but who really knows until someone gets caught? I think it will just weed itself out, so there's no point in dragging people down about it right now...except for certain people that are blatant cheaters that deserve a beating.

I think it will just weed itself out, so there's no point in dragging people down about it right now...except for certain people that are blatant cheaters that deserve a beating and were referred to in the last part of your question [laughs]. Obviously, I haven't changed. I feel like I'll outperform anybody these days. I don't think anybody on a human level is gonna be able to compete with me right now.

TAP: Is Vitor someone that's still on your radar, because he is still in the top tier of the rankings. Would he be a fight you'd be amenable to within your next two or three fights, or is he in your rear view mirror now?

Luke Rockhold: I want a fight that makes sense for me. I want a big fight for the fans to enjoy, and obviously, I want to get paid and make big numbers...I want the right fight. I want the biggest fights I can get. Vitor is a great fight for me right now. I wanna go out there and get out all my revenge on this guy, of course. I believe he got me with an unfair advantage, and I know I can rewrite that tale.

Yoel Romero is a tough dude, but he didn't look that great against Jacare, and Jacare didn't look that great, either. I wasn't very impressed with their performances. He's a tough guy, so we'll have to see what the bosses like. Right now, it's a weird time. Does Chris Weidman deserve the rematch first? I don't know. That's all up to them. Personally, I want the biggest fight, and I think that is either Chris or Vitor. Has Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort been booked yet? That wouldn't be a bad fight, either.

TAP: You utilized a weight management team for this camp with Daniel Leith living with you to manage your meals and diet plan. How was that experience with Fitness VT overall, and will you be doing this for future camps?

Luke Rockhold: Dan Leith was awesome to have on my team for this camp, and it made my life so much easier. I just wanted to cut out the crap and the things that would take away from my potential. If I have to worry about cooking meals and what to eat and how much to eat every day, it stresses you out and takes away from recovery. Dan was there for me, and it was an amazing thing to have him in my camp. Everything was pretty on point for me and I wouldn't change it. Dan will be forever a part of my camps and now he's going to be working with Cain. We're taking that guy and just making him a part of AKA [laughs].

TAP: Is that something that you would like to see catch on, maybe in the form of the UFC at least hiring weight management teams to handle the weight cuts and reloads for the entire roster, especially in light of the young man that died during his weight cut for the One Championship promotion just a few days before UFC 194?

Luke Rockhold: I think it's a very smart idea. I know the UFC has hired Lockhart and Leith to do multiple people, but it might be tough for them to cover the map on every fighter, but I think it would be a wise decision for them to get a full team of guys to do this.

TAP: You've had a well-publicized sponsor deal with Adidas. Now that you're the MW champ, will that relationship change in any way?

Luke Rockhold: Adidas is my sponsor. Obviously, with Reebok being the main UFC sponsor, I will adhere to the organization's deal with them inside the cage, and I will do what I have to do to support them, but Adidas is my sponsor, and I've gotten amazing support from them. They've done a lot for me and I really love the brand and where they're going with it. I foresee a long future with them. I'm happy to be in the Three Stripe Army.

TAP: You posted a photo of your two belts with the caption, "Had a threesome last night." You have always experienced a high volume of female fans, but has that exponentially increased over the weekend? Are the girls from your high school coming out of the woodwork now?

Luke Rockhold: [Laughs] Everybody from elementary school...kindergarten. Seriously though, I have been married to this sport for a very long time and I've sacrificed so much. That's the reason why I've gotten as far as I have. It takes a lot to make it to the top and be the best in this game, and that's why I've shut out the serious dating stuff for the most part.

Don't get me wrong, I dabble here and there, have a little fun [laughs], but I'm married to my belts, what can I say? I like to have fun and joke around. I'm a pretty easy-going guy, but I don't take things too seriously in the dating world at this time. I still have a lot to accomplish, and that comes first.

That's the reason why I've gotten as far as I have. It takes a lot to make it to the top and be the best in this game, and that's why I've shut out the serious dating stuff for the most part. Don't get me wrong, I dabble here and there, have a little fun [laughs], but I'm married to my belts, what can I say?

TAP: The final UFC card of the year is this weekend, and features another title bout between Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone. How do you think that fight will go?

Luke Rockhold: It's a tough one to call. Dos Anjos looked so good in his last fight. He looks like an animal, and Cowboy is one of the toughest dudes I know. I think he's very well-rounded and had a very close fight with dos Anjos last time. I think it will be a back and forth war, but I'm taking Cowboy. I gotta pick my boy. I think he's tough enough to take the early onslaught and catch him with one of those deadly head kicks. We'll see, but I'm picking my boy, Cowboy.

TAP: What are your goals for 2016?

Luke Rockhold: My goal is to make big fights and win them. I want to get on the biggest stage possible. I'm looking at the schedule now, and UFC 200 doesn't look like a bad place to be right now. If we could lock down UFC 200, that gives me time to refocus myself so that I can be the best I can possibly be for this next camp. I wanna stay healthy, and I really think I can put on a much better, because I don't think I performed anywhere near my potential this last time out. July is looking really good to me.

*There is still more of this great interview, which will be available on this week's episode of the Three Amigos Podcast, and will go up on Wednesday. Be sure to keep an eye out for that on the MMA Nation Soundcloud and iTunes accounts where all our content can be found.*