July 14, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Luke Rockhold celebrates his win over Tim Kennedy in the middleweight championship fight at MMA Strikeforce at the Rose Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Rockhold: 'I’d like my chances against Costa in a pure boxing match'

In one week’s time, the UFC will be in Georgia for UFC Fight Night 35. In the main event of the evening, two top 10 Middleweights will clash in a fight that is sure to bring fireworks. Luke Rockhold, the former Strikeforce Middleweight champion, is looking to get his first UFC win over perennial contender, Costa Philippou.

Rockhold hopes to get his UFC career on track after losing his debut in violent fashion at the feet of Vitor Belfort. That loss was his first in 6 years, and he is itching to get back inside the Octagon to prove his worth. I recently sat down with Rockhold to talk about his upcoming fight with Costa, other Middleweight news, Twitter, and much more.

His excitement going into UFC Fight Night 35

I am pretty damn excited. This is another chance to prove myself and to welcome myself to the UFC masses. I need to have a good, solid performance and prove that my last fight was not me. S**t can happen to anybody in this sport. You saw what happened to Anderson Silva, the best of the best. I want to get this win behind me, and prove that I am a threat in this division. I just feel like I need to win. I have never really been a loser. Last fight was the first time I lost in a long long time. I don’t care if it’s the UFC, or anywhere for that matter, I don’t like losing. It doesn’t sit well with me. It is a bad time to fight me right now because I feel more focused than ever. I am training harder than I have ever trained. I am monitoring everything, I am being smart about  my diet, and my training. I am excited for next week, and Philippou should not be.

Watching tape on his opponents

I always watch a lot of tape. I always try to give myself an advantage wherever I can. I like to learn a guy’s instincts, his strengths, and his weaknesses. I think you are cheating yourself if you don’t watch tape. It is a huge tool to use, and I have always been proponent of studying your opponent. At the same time I am still trying to improve and focus on what I do best and what I need to do. I definitely have a strategy. I have quite a few strategies. I will start with one and move on to the others if I need to.

Evaluating Costa Philippou

Costa’s got a real solid boxing game. He’s got power in his hands, and he has sharp skills. Those are his strengths. He has also shown good takedown defense in the past. I think he gets a little too complacent on his back, and if I have him there, I am going to look to unload on him, cut him, and try and knock his ass out. Or I will choke him out, one or the other. I believe I have an advantage over a lot of fighters because I am more well rounded than anybody out there. I think I can box with him just fine, but everywhere else I am just better. I’d like my chances against Costa in a pure boxing match. I think I am just a better fighter.

Following the blueprint that Carmont used?

Who knows dude. Everyone has an off night. Credit Carmont with a good gameplan that he executed well, but Costa didn’t look his best that night. I have seen a lot of his other fights where he looks sharp, and his takedown defense was on. He slows down a little bit on the ground, and tends to just hang on to position rather than getting up. If I am on top, I am going to come with a killer instinct and look for the finish as soon as I can. I like fast paced fights. If it’s not fast paced it’s not fun. I am here to win, but this is fun for me, it truly is.

Using Twitter as a tool to boost popularity and get the fights you want

I think most of my popularity comes from the StrikeForce fans. I haven’t really done much in my UFC career yet per se. It definitely helps to talk on Twitter. It could help you or it could hurt you though. Some fighters have been fired because of what they said on Twitter. For me, I am going to throw jabs where I can, but I am going to be myself. I am not going to go outside the box, and write a script like Chael, because that’s not my style. I am going to be real, and if some guy disrespects me I am going to share how I feel about him and probably talk s**t towards him. I am going to defend myself anyway I see fit. This is the fight game, and trash talk has always been part of the sport. It can sell a fight, fans feed off of it, and it can get you paid.

His confidence after losing to Belfort and a long layoff

My confidence is always high. I work so hard in the gym and I don’t cheat myself with anything. Nothing can sway my confidence. I know I am better than whoever I step in the cage with, and I am going try to prove it the best I can. I have taken 19 months off before and fought Jacare, won the title, and I was completely confident then. When you train with guys like Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier how could you lack confidence? I know what I am capable of, and confidence is a non-issue.

His thoughts on Weidman vs Silva

For the fight to end in an injury, it is unfortunate and it sucks. No one wants to see Anderson go out like that. The guy is a legend in this sport. You have to credit Chris, though. He dominated that fight from start to finish and he learned a lot from the first fight. Anderson was successful with the inside leg kick last time, and when he started to do it this fight, Chris was ready. Anderson obviously telegraphed that kick enough that it got caught with a check. I don’t like that to tell you the truth. It scares me even in training. Being a southpaw and fighting an Orthodox fighter, it’s so easy to check an inside leg kick. The slightest turn, and man that hurts like hell. It’s a dangerous kick, and Anderson throws so much force behind it that bad things can happen. I think it’s a joke that some people are calling it a ‘dirty move’ that Chris checked it. Are you kidding me? Who comes out and says something like that? Anderson Silva is trying to rip your leg off with kicks, of course you are going to try and check his kicks and break his leg.

Michael Bisping or Tim Kennedy?

Kennedy is just too tough. I have been in there with him, and I know how tough he is. Bisping just doesn’t have it. He has a good game, and I am sure he will stuff some takedowns, but Kennedy will eventually get some though. The guy is relentless and will not stop. Kennedy will control him and maybe even choke him out on the ground. Kennedy has legit skills on the ground and is a tenacious wrestler. He may not be the most technical wrestler, but he will always be coming forward. If a guy like Roger Gracie takes your back and has both hooks in and can’t finish you, that shows a lot.

Chris Weidman or Vitor Belfort?

I am picking Weidman. I think he is too tough. I think it is a good matchup for him with his strong wrestling background. He will get his takedowns and keep the pressure on him. Vitor past the first round, maybe a round and a half, is nothing. It is Weidman’s fight after that. As long as Weidman controls the pace and closes the distance he will win. One round of Weidman grinding on Vitor and it will change everything. I think Vitor is explosive and tough, but a guy like Weidman is too much of a task.

Best career moment thus far

Beating Jacare, hands down. Jacare was a guy I idolized while growing up. Even when he was in the jiu-jitsu world I followed him. To beat a guy like him and to win the belt, it was a life changer coming from where I was. It was huge for my career.

Tags: Anderson SIlva Chris Weidman Costa Philippou Jacare Souza Luke Rockhold Tim Kennedy UFC Vitor Belfort

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