Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is back in the win column following a second-round victory over David Branch at UFC Fight Night 116. Again in the hunt for titles, Rockhold tells Fighters Only contributor Tony Reid about the time he won the Strikeforce middleweight crown – his first pro belt – in 2011 and why it meant to much to him.
Question: If you could choose one fight from your career that every MMA fan should see, which fight would you choose and why?
Luke Rockhold: I don’t know if it was my best fight but the fight I’m most proud of is my fight with Jacare (Souza) to win the Strikeforce middleweight title. That was a big step for me. And going through what I went through leading up to the fight… it meant a lot. It was the first time I ever cried in the cage. I had to let it out.
Q: What triggered that emotion in the cage?
LR: I had a pretty bad injury a separation in my shoulder. I tried to come back and I reinjured it. I was out for 19 months. I felt like I just couldn’t get any momentum. There were questions about whether I belonged or not. I was struggling financially. Then all of a sudden I got the title shot. I have always looked up to Jacare, so to show up on the big stage and take the belt, it felt like I finally made it in MMA. I was in debt and I put all of my chips in one pot and I came out on top. Jackpot!
Q: How did life change once you reached the mountain top in Strikeforce?
LR: Life was just a little better. I didn’t have to live at my manager’s house or in the gym anymore. I went through a lot trying to make it. I lived in the gym. I lived in Bob Cook’s garage. I was all over the place. I was struggling and sacrificing to make it. There was a lot that went into that.
Q: If you could fight anyone in any weight class, who would you choose to fight and why?
LR: I would like to challenge ‘Mighty Mouse’ (Demetrious Johnson). I would have to take him out. Could you imagine a 185-pound ‘Mighty Mouse’ going berserk cage? A guy that size and moving that quick… that would be a true challenge. I like that matchup.
Q: Who are the people that inspire you most, personally and professionally?
LR: There are so many people I have looked up to in so many different ways. I try to pull the best parts out of everyone and use it. You have to be yourself and carry yourself in your own way but I pull inspiring aspects from many different people and use them in my life: guys like my brother and how he carried himself in the surfing world; guys like Herschel Walker and what he did during his career; also Cain (Velasquez) and what he has been able to accomplish to this point.
Q: Who are your favorite fighters to watch and why?
LR: I’m a fan of the sport and there are so many guys I like to watch. It’s amazing to see ‘Mighty Mouse’ perform. Anthony Pettis has some great standup. Jon Jones is just so creative. Jose Aldo is amazing. If I see something I like in someone I try to bring it to the gym and try to learn and and implement it in my game. I think that’s how I get better and better. If it works for me, I keep it; if it doesn’t, I throw it out.