(Editor's note: The following is a blog from former Strikeforce middleweight champ Luke Rockhold just days before his UFC on FX 8 showdown against Vitor Belfort.)
I’m here in Jaraguá do Sul, Brazil, counting down to my UFC on FX five-round main event fight with former UFC champion Vitor Belfort this Saturday.
I just got back from the press conference, where I went eye-to-eye with my main event opponent Vitor Belfort. He put his fist up to my chin, which pissed me off. I immediately went into “fight mode”, and wanted to fight him right then, right there, but I have respect for this sport and for this organization. He will pay in the fight.
I asked for the Belfort fight even before he was due to fight Michael Bisping in January. Vitor is a top name, a dangerous, explosive fighter. He beat Bisping in two rounds, and Bisping went in as the No.1 contender, so I know beating Belfort would be a great way to get my name at the top of the division.
I’ve come a long way, both literally and in my career. I’ve worked hard to get here and never taken an easy route. I’ve come too far, sacrificed so much. This is my time. I’ve here to prove it. Vitor Belfort is getting stopped on Saturday night.
Because I am competing in the main event of a UFC card, I’ve done a lot of media leading to this fight, probably as much as I’ve ever done. My AKA teammate Daniel Cormier has warned me about the “UFC jitters” but I will be relaxed come fight night. But, I think that’s crap. If you focus on yourself and your opponent, it is just another fight.
Visualization/medication is a huge part of my training, building a mindset to help me win. There are three mindsets I use for fighting. The positive one, where you believe in yourself, which I used in training; the negative one, which I use as fuel to training harder; then there’s the mindset I fight in, which is completely clear.
On fight night, I switch my head, and I can’t hear or see anything but what’s directly in front of me. I let my training and instincts take over. I’ve gotten so good at relaxing and putting my mind at rest during fights, I swear I can’t remember being in some of my biggest wins. I don’t remember my corner talking to me, the crowd, nothing, and I only remember how I won in flashes.
I’m not only confident in my own peace of mind, but also of what’s in my heart. When the going gets tough – and against a fighter like Vitor it will get tough - I will know in my heart that I’ve put the work in and I will be able to respond and fight fire with fire. I know I won’t back down, won’t break, won’t need to slow down. I’ve seen Vitor lack these same qualities in his fights.
For good reason, TRT has been a hot subject surrounding this fight. I’ve been very honest with my views and I don’t think I need to repeat them once more. What I will add is that I expect Belfort to show up Saturday night looking like he did against Bisping, with leathery skin and all. It doesn’t matter to me; this is what I signed for. I believe fighting is more mental than physical. I worked my ass off for his fight, and believe there’s no substitute for hard work and dedication.
Vitor has tried to substitute hard work and dedication. He’s taken shortcuts, and he’s done it throughout his career, so I believe when the going gets tough I will be able to push harder than he can. Taking TRT shows me that Vitor is mentally weak. He takes these shortcuts, he has cheated in the past and now he’s found a loophole way of cheating. Someone with a confident mindset doesn’t look for loopholes or to cheat.
I also want to say this only makes me more confident that I will win this fight; Belfort has shown throughout his career that he has a breaking point mentally and the fact he needs to fight in his home country where he’s somehow allowed to use testosterone replacement therapy tells me he’s even weaker mentally than he was early in his career.
I expect him to be explosive, fast and powerful, but I also know I can knock him out or submit him in any round. I’m not underestimating him at all – I’ve watched him fight for over 15 years – but listening to his interviews, I believe he’s underestimating me.
He’s a black belt at BJJ and I am “only” a brown belt. But I bring something he hasn’t seen before – people don’t know but I am a red belt in “legit-su”.
So many BJJ black belts don’t mean crap. A lot of guys in MMA have been given BJJ black belts because of their status in the UFC. They become marketing for their instructors and they are handed black belts they really haven’t earned. I’ve actually turned down becoming a black belt. I didn’t want to earn it because I was a world champ and beat Jacaré Souza in a MMA fight. I want to earn it the right way. I have competed and earned my belts in jiu-jitsu: I earned my purple belt by winning the blue belt world championships in the gi, and I earned my brown belt by winning the no-gi championships at purple belt. I would mean a lot to me to earn my black belt by winning a world championship at brown belt, which I plan on doing one day.
That’s exactly what I want to do in the UFC. I want to earn my way to the UFC title. I didn’t want anyone to say, “he's been handed this” when I fight for the belt. I’m the Strikeforce world champion but, in the middleweight division, there’s Anderson Silva and everyone else. I can’t compare myself to him and so I want to earn my shot at the UFC belt. That’s why I asked for this fight with Vitor Belfort – because other guys don’t want to fight him and I love to challenge myself and earn my opportunities.
Like I said, this is my time. I will stop Belfort on Saturday night. He called himself the T-Rex, and its time I made him extinct.
Hit me up on Twitter and Instagram @LukeRockhold
UFC on FX: Belfort vs Rockhold is live on FX this Saturday.
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