With the UFC middleweight division’s top athletes running so close to each other in the race to the title, we fans are being treated to some amazing fights. This past weekend saw Cuban standout, Yoel Romero beat the last vestiges of the Machida era right out of the Octagon, and just 10 short weeks prior, we saw Luke Rockhold set those unfortunate wheels in motion when he steamrolled the Dragon even faster than Romero did.
In a recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Rockhold weighed in on a variety of topics that include his thoughts on the Machida/Romero fight, the MW pecking order, post-fight speeches, AKA’s training methods, IV rehydration, out-of-cage sponsor deals and more. Here’s what he had to say:
Thoughts on Machida/Romero
I know what Yoel is capable of, and I knew it was a bad turnaround for Machida. There’s a lot of circumstances that played into it. Having a quick turnaround, hand surgery and fighting within 10 weeks, didn’t allow him to have a proper training camp. It was too quick after a pretty obvious concussion, I would think, because I hit him pretty hard. Technically it was a submission, but I don’t think he really knew where he was, from what I understand from the doctors and cutmen. He should have taken a long time off before he came back. I couldn’t fathom that at all.
Going into a small cage was also a factor because Machida is a guy that definitely needs room to work. I believe it was a 25 foot cage or something versus a standard 30 foot cage. You could tell that the whole time, he was cornered everywhere he went. He didn’t have any room to move against a freak athlete like Yoel, who packs a lot of power.
The pecking order
I’d say at this point, Lyoto’s championship opportunities are gone. Chris Weidman, Yoel, Jacare and myself…he’d have a really tough time with all of us. I think he beats most everybody else, and he still has plenty of fight left in him; I just think championship talk is out the window. Weidman and I are another level above the other two (Jacare, Romero). I’ve got all the respect in the world for Yoel, he’s very dangerous and athletic, but he’s unpolished in many ways and he’d run into some problems with me or Weidman.
Yoel is growing and getting better, but he’s running short on time to get as good as he needs to be to beat me and Weidman. Obviously, he’s a dangerous guy, and as freak of an athlete as he is – I don’t even think I can match his athleticism – but I’m a smarter, more technical athlete, and that’s what it comes down to. He’s one of the best wrestlers I’ve ever seen in my life, but there’s a big difference in wrestling and grappling. People say he’s one of the best grapplers… they need to check themselves when they analyze fighters.
Your words on the mic after a fight are very important. They reverberate moreso than any other interview or speech you can do, so obviously, you should choose your words carefully and have some knowledge of where you’re going with it.
I like Yoel, he’s a good guy and he probably means well, but I don’t know where he was going with that speech. Did he come up with it on his own or did someone actually influence him to talk on that? Who knows, but it was definitely a little off base, and misinterpreted on top of everything else.
You want your speech to complement your fight. You don’t want it to take away from it or bring some sort of negativity to it. You want to complement or further yourself (with a call-out). You want it to enhance your performance. Unfortunately for Yoel, who had such a great performance, his speech detracted greatly from it.
I think Muay Thai is too straight up. I like some of the aspects of it, but I think it’s a very erect style, that leaves you open to get caught. When you’re standing so erect, you’re not as mobile, so you’re bound to get caught. I can relate that to Cowboy Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz fight. You need a more elusive boxing style. If you’re too straight up and you throw these kicks then you get caught down the middle. I believe in a more elusive style like Taekwondo, but there’s a fine line between all that. I have my own style and it’s worked for me.
AKA’s training methods
I think our training methods are awesome. People want to talk down on how we train. We made a mistake on Cain not going out to Mexico early enough, but other than that, I don’t know what anyone really has to say. Mine and Daniel Cormier’s performances speak for themselves. Cain’s performance will speak for itself again. He’ll be back better than ever, I promise you that.
A lot of camps spar and train just as hard as we do, and not even as safe. We always wear 16 oz gloves, headgear, full knee pads and every piece armor you could imagine. I’ve been to camps all over the world and seen guys hard sparring with smaller gloves and no headgear. Our training methods are definitely hard, but I feel we’re safer than everybody else. It’s a high level of talent oat our gym, and that’s a big factor. Cain and Khabib have had a couple injuries, but other than that, I don’t know what people are talking about.
MW rankings according to Rockhold
Top 5 in my division would be the champion at Number 1, myself, Jacaré Souza and Yoel Romero. Man, it’s hard to put Anderson in there ahead of Machida right now, even considering Machida’s performances, because of the mess after the Diaz fight, I’d probably put Machida then Anderson.
Machida was doing alright against Yoel. I think he won the first round, but so much wasn’t working in his favor. He’s still competitive with a lot of guys. Tim Kennedy is a force to be reckoned with. I think that 5th spot is actually a toss-up between Tim Kennedy, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. I’m afraid to say it, but I think Tim might beat both of them.
He’s a guy that’s kind of in that realm where he seems to fight to his ranking. He beats everybody below him, but he always seems to fall to the guys that are ranked above him. When he fought Jacare, he was all ‘Whatever happens, happens. If I keep it on the feet I can win, but if I don’t…’ He was kind of writing himself off.
You can’t fight in this sport with one foot out the door. You’re only going to go so far. If you’re going to be fighting, you have to believe whole-heartedly that you’re going to beat whoever they put in front of you. You can by on that for a while, but eventually, someone’s going to find you.
I had a long talk with Novitsky this past weekend and one of the head guys at USADA, and they’re just trying to cover all the bases that people could cheat. I think cutting the rehydration is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. It’s going to hinder a lot of guys and it’s not going to help the organization.
What I offered was, why don’t they just do the rehydration process themselves. Have IVs available immediately following the weigh-ins for every fighter that wants one. It could be run by the UFC or the commission. I think that would be very beneficial to the UFC. I know they’re trying to clean up the sport, and I applaud that, but there’s got to be a better way around this.
I can get by without it, but I definitely prefer to use IVs to rehydrate. For most of my career, I didn’t use them. I started using them over my last 4 or 5 fights. Actually, I think I started after the fight with Vitor.
Signing an 8-fight deal
They made me a deal I couldn’t refuse [laughs]. I’m very happy to be where I’m at. I know I’m going to be the champ and my championship clause is pretty nice. I’m going to be very well taken care of.
I’ve signed some contracts for outside the cage. I’ve got multiple deals happening, but it can always be better. It’s great to be outgoing and do things for yourself, but I think management is crucial. You have to find a real go-getter that’s willing to pound the pavement and approach all manner of companies to make deals on your behalf; someone that will put together a good portfolio that will aggressively pursue opportunities and make things happen.
Some managers seem to be stuck within the business and only manage to work with whatever is cleared through the UFC, or will wait for whatever happens to come to the table. People’s accomplishments speak for themselves, and you can’t just wait to be approached. Fighters need management that’s willing to go out and seek those opportunities instead of waiting for them to appear.
Mad Max was amazing. I loved it, plus, Charlize is my favorite actress. I like Tom Hardy a lot, too. It was a very cool movie, and it wasn’t overdone, like a lot of remakes tend to be. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one.
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