UFC debutant Rockhold: 'Black belts don't mean s*** to me'
Luke Rockhold will enter the lions den when he faces Belfort in his home country of Brazil
Photo by Esther Lin/Getty Images
Strikeforce's final middleweight champion Luke Rockhold makes his UFC debut this weekend against Vitor Belfort and he's confident he has the edge over his elder adversary on the feet and on the ground.
Rockhold joined Strikeforce’s 185 pound (84kg) division in 2008 and never tasted defeat inside the California based organisation’s six-sided cage. The American Kickboxing Academy product took the middleweight crown from Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza several years later and held the title until their doors closed this year.
Belfort is a mixed martial arts pioneer. Competing since 1996, the Brazilian “Phenom” is a former UFC heavyweight tournament and light heavyweight champ. Since remerging in the UFC several years ago, Belfort has cemented his position as one of the top middleweights.
While Belfort has an extensive resume with black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and judo, as well as a purple belt in Shotokan karate. But the 28 year old surfer Rockhold is confident he has the upper hand wherever the fight goes:
"[Belfort] is using more kicks, but being a southpaw vs. southpaw, it's going to nullify a lot of the kicks for him," Rockhold recently told MMA Junkie Radio "He's really heavy with the left high kick. I think I have more diversity in my kicks, and I'm going to use that to my advantage," he said.
"If it goes to the ground, I think it's my world. I know he's a longtime black belt, but black belts don't mean **** to me," Rockhold continued.
While diehard fight fans understand that Rockhold is one of the best Strikeforce fighters joining the UFC roster, to the casual onlooker he remains somewhat of an unknown commodity so he is looking to put on a show for the Brazilian audience.
"I definitely want to keep it exciting and high-paced and keep a lot of pressure on Vitor," he said. "I feel like I can beat him anywhere, and I have to employ my range and my kickboxing. I'm not going to just straight box with Vitor. That would be stupid."
"It's really going to refine my skills and perfect my striking and make me be very precise. I expect a different fight for me," The Strikeforce champ revealed.
Rockhold is diving head first into a lion’s den. In Strikeforce he was a big fish in an incredibly shallow pond but that does not apply now that he is a member of the UFC’s 185 pound (84kg) ranks.
While Belfort is among the greatest challenges that the Californian has faced, he envisions this as his coming out party:
"Times have changed," Rockhold said. "I feel like this is my time, and it's going to be a changing of the guard. It's just another opponent when the cage door closes.
"I feel like I'm still the champ and I have something to defend, and I'm going in there to win."
Belfort and Rockhold meet in the main event of UFC Brazil beginning at 6:30 AM AEST – Be sure to check MMA Kanvas for full coverage of the twelve fight card. Our live blog will kick off on Sunday morning right here.
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