Anderson Silva once mentioned Khalil ‘The War Horse’ Rountree, 5-2, in the same breath as Lyoto Machida and ‘Jacaré’ Souza as someone who could go on to win a world title. Despite a rocky start to his Octagon campaign, light-heavyweight Rountree, in February, displayed the kind of terrifying power that could fire him towards those heights, knocking out Daniel Jolly with a knee after just 52 seconds. Now, after picking up his first UFC win, Rountree, 27, looks for a second one this Sunday (July 16) against Scotland’s Paul Craig at UFC Fight Night 113.
Before that, though, he spoke to Fighters Only’s Tony Reid and announced his plans for a brighter future…
Q: After your victory over Daniel Jolly in February, you said you had a new outlook on the fight game. What is it?
KR: My career and my moral outlook are completely opposite. I love people. I like to talk to people. I explore people. It helps me to expand my vision. If I am connecting with people and I see what they want in the world and I think there’s a possibility for what I want and try to figure out how to mix that together. I am a really peaceful dude. I enjoy a lot of time in solitude and in contemplation. The fight is a very chaotic atmosphere. There’s loud rock music and people are wild. It’s completely the opposite of day-to-day life. I used to bring the nice guy into this environment. I was friends with everybody, even my opponent. That cost me two fights I could have won. I took myself out of that for the fight with Jolly and you see the results. The new mindset is that when I come in here it’s not a friendly sport, this is my life.
Q: When did you make that breakthrough?
KR: I took two weeks in between the fight and the start of the training camp for the Jolly fight. I wanted to get clear and feel the loss from Australia. I wanted to reflect and I realized something had to change.
Q: Your striking capabilities are clear, but what have you done to improve your ground game?
KR: I’ve upped my conditioning and I throw myself into the worst situations I can. Instead of spending hours upon hours on the mats learning new techniques, I’m spending more hours conditioning my body and my mind, and I get thrown in there with the best guys we have. I learn from there. I start off in the worst positions. That way, I can learn faster and react more instinctively.
Q: What did you gain by getting into the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23?
KR: TUF really eliminated any camera jitters. To get on the show, I had to eliminate that. I had to adjust to having people around and asking questions. I wanted to speak authentically and not just be on autopilot. It taught me that I can be myself in any circumstance. I can let myself flow and connect with people more easily.
Q: You were 300lb and started MMA just to get healthy, yet now you’re in the UFC. What did you do before that?
KR: I used to tour with bands and sell their merchandise on tour. When I told them I was going to stop traveling and start training, it was a joke. I told them. Everything is different. My life is completely different. I am the same person but I have a different purpose.
Q: How much has training with Anderson Silva influenced your fighting style?
KR: The first person I saw doing it in MMA was Anderson but I didn’t want to copy him. Getting to know him, I realized he’s just himself. He’s studied a million martial arts. He knows himself. When he’s in there, however, he wants to feel in the moment. He does it. I don’t necessarily mimic what he does, but I ask myself, ‘How do I feel? How does my body want to move?’ I want my body to feel no kinks or resistance. I want to flow like water. I can react in different ways and it’s hard for other guys to see what’s coming. How can you teach someone to be themselves? You can teach them technique, but I am past that. I know that but you don’t know me. It’s a style that you can learn.
Q: What are your goals and motivation?
KR: Overall, I want to continue to search for what’s true; my own truths and experiences. I put myself in positions to have experiences and I want to share my outlook. I want to make a shift in the world. I am at a point right now where I am not well known enough for people to listen to what I have to say. My motivation is to work hard and fight and get people to see who I am and, at the end of the day, be in a position to make news and make history, where people wake up and come together. We can do a lot to shift the world. It’s all about perception and what we focus on. I have journals and journals written. I have always had the mentality but I’ve never had the courage to let it be an outlet, an expression. The more I become true with myself, the more I realize I want to share it.
Q: So your ambitions are much bigger than a UFC belt?
KR: This life is temporary. I want to leave a legacy, not one as a badass fighter but someone who changed the world. If you look at Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr or Abraham Lincoln, they had something to say. What they had to say made a huge difference in how we live today. I want to do whatever I can to be one of those guys when I die.
Q: Would you say you’re winning already?
KR: What I declare into the universe comes right back. If you speak it and work for it, it comes back. Seven years ago I was a 300lb dude sitting on the couch smoking a pack of cigarettes, drinking a six-pack of beer. Now I am in the UFC. Between then and now, the stuff that has happened has been crazy; the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, the ups and downs. I’ve always stayed clear on where I want to go. This is the formula.