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18th Mar 2016

UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold talks to JOE about UFC 199, dirty fighters and injuries

Kevin Beirne

To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.

At least that’s what we were told before heading into a training session with UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold at the EA SPORTS UFC 2 ‘Finish the Fight’ launch event in London.

Rockhold is currently getting ready for a championship re-match against Chris Weidman at UFC 199 in June, a repeat of the fight he won at UFC 194 to claim the title in the first place.

We caught up with the Californian southpaw to discuss everything from his upcoming title fight, to the middleweight division’s issues with performance-enhancing drugs – and how he stays above it all.

JOE: How is it different for you, going against someone for the second time, as opposed to going in raw?

Luke Rockhold: It’s great for me. I’ve never actually had a re-match. Potential re-matches, but never actually one come to fruition. I’m excited to go out there and put a stamp on this one, and leave no doubt in everyone’s mind that I’m the better man, and the spinning back kick had nothing to do with that. I thought I won; every time I wanted to win a position in that fight, I won it.

I lost a couple of positions, but I think I controlled the majority of that fight in every way, shape or form. I think I’m going to go out there, and it’s going to be that much easier next time.

Obviously I’m not going to fight on antibiotics and with an infection – I hope. [Not carrying an infection] will give me a huge advantage. [The infection] limits you so much with your cardio, it just drains your body so much. And I really couldn’t fight how I wanted to. I’m going to go in there, and I don’t really see what Chris can bring to the table to threaten me.

I respect him as a fighter, but I just think I’m better than him in every way. He’s got good wrestling, but he’s not going to do anything with his wrestling. I’m better on the ground. I’m better on the feet. I’m more dynamic. I’m going to hurt him. I’m going to hurt him early, and I’m going to finish him early.

It seemed an interesting relationship between the two of you during the Embedded series. What’s your personal relationship with Chris like?

I’ve known Chris for a while. We’ve had mutual sponsors and done trips together. He’s a nice guy. He’s a family man. I have respect for a lot of guys in the game that have that fight, and put themselves out there, and have fought fair at the highest level. Like I said, we’ve travelled, and we’re cool together.

I’m still cool with him, I don’t know if he likes me as much. But the title’s on the line, and he’s trying to come take it from me. It’s not about that; it’s just about telling it like it is, and I’m better than him.

I’m going to beat him up. I’m telling him the whole way through. I’m just talking real. I keep it straight, I keep it real. It’s not about talking shit, it’s about telling him what exactly I’m going to do. It’s just a simple fact that I’m going to beat him on the feet, and I’m going to beat him on the ground. I’m going to embarrass him.

luke rockhold ufc2 ea sports

There have been some issues in the past with in MMA, particularly in middleweight, with PEDs. How do you resist that temptation to use those things if you know other people in your division are using performance-enhancing drugs?

I’m a true competitor, and I would never be happy with myself if I were to cheat. It just wouldn’t work. I can’t do it. This is what I’m truly passionate about. I would never taint myself. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I’m going to find a way to win no matter what happens, no matter what these guys are doing.

I’m just glad that I get to compete on a fair playing level. Now that we have Usada jumping in and testing and catching these guys, you see the performances drop for a lot of these guys and their physiques change.

It’s about time, man. It’s about time. I’ve known I’ve been fighting dirty fighters for a long time, and it’s not the best feeling. It’s not the most comforting feeling going in there and you’re already starting at a deficit. It’s nice to have a fair playing field.

Does that give you an extra motivation if you know someone’s dirty?

Of course. I used to get pissed and used to be the guy that wanted to right their wrongs and clean up the sport single-handedly. That’s the mentality I took for so many years. I ran into one of the worst and being caught by the guy just because he’s been cheating is unfortunate. What can you say?

I’m just glad that obviously they’ve caught him, and they’ve caught many guys, and these guys aren’t the same as they once were. You can see everyone’s falling off – it’s been a big drop.

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There was that video of you draining your elbow. Is that worst injury you’ve gotten – or most disgusting maybe?

I wouldn’t say it’s the worst injury I’ve gotten. I broke my hand. My shoulder has been the biggest thing. I tore my AC joint a couple of times back when I was younger. Shoulder ligaments are the worst thing you ever want to mess with. The elbow is pretty minor in the big scheme of things.

How do you mentally come back from something like that shoulder injury?

It’s a tough one. That one scared me. That one really made me question if I was going to be able to fight. There’s such dynamic movement with your shouldering; you can do so many things, but you do one wrong thing and then you just can’t do it. It sets you back. You’ve just got to stay positive, and obviously go through the recovery routines, and do everything you can.

I was out for 19 months on the shelf, and I stayed positive, I stayed focussed. I tried not to let it break me, and I worked around it. I jabbed with the right hand, and I kicked with my left foot. I taught myself how to kick better. That built me up.

Literally, I remember walking into the gym and doing a thousand high kicks a day. And you look at me now, I’m one of the best kickers, the hardest kickers in the sport. You’ve got to stay confident. You’ve got to work with what you’re given and stay positive, stay focussed, stay hungry. That’s the name of the game. When something happens, you work around it. Always.

There’s a lot going on in this sport, Mentally, physically, technically – there are a lot of different aspects to to this sport you can work on. You can work around injuries, you can work around problems and stay on it. I’m driven to be the best, so I’ve always had that mentality.

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Luke Rockhold took on the Finish the Fight Challenge to mark the launch of EA SPORTS UFC 2 . EA SPORTS UFC 2 is out now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Find out more at