Defending UFC belt is serious business for Luke Rockhold

TORRANCE, Calif. — Luke Rockhold had a serious tone when meeting the media before his open workout at the UFC Gym Torrance on Wednesday.

The middleweight champion has already entered the state of fight mode and won’t allow anything to take his focus away from Michael Bisping — not even a security alarm.

Rockhold became irritated while an alarm sound went off during the scrum interview.

“What the (bleep) is that?” Rockhold said in mid-sentence. “Can somebody help us out?”

Rockhold (15-2) gave long, stony-faced answers when describing how he would beat his UFC 199 opponent for a second time on Saturday at the Forum and set himself up for bigger paydays.

 

The Northern California native did crack a smile when a reporter asked how his life has changed since becoming a UFC champion last December after defeating Chris Weidman at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“More comfortably, you know,” Rockhold said. “It’s nice. This is where I saw myself, just gotta take it a little further until I’m flying in the sky.”

Rockhold doesn’t sound like a fighter who plans on staying in the octagon for long. He made it clear that he wants to get his money and get out, but he still has plans of defending the belt a few times.

“I’m here to get paid,” Rockhold said. “I’m here to set myself up, we got a short window in this career and I’m looking to make the most of it.

“I’m just looking to set myself up as in fulfill my dreams and retire a happy man. I’m talking money, I’m talking being comfortable with what I have at the end of this game. I’m not content, I want everything in life … I want a jet, I want houses. It’s like you want to live that dream, you want to be flying in the sky. Until I’m flying in the sky, I’m not happy.”

The 31-year-old Rockhold understands the money won’t come without the belt. He’s aware of how often belts have been exchanged in the past year.

Five of the 10 UFC divisions have seen new champions since last November.

“It’s switching because you gotta grow, you gotta adapt to the game,” Rockhold said about the belt shuffle. “I’m so far ahead of this game, I understand every technique and every situation. There’s nobody that has the skillset that I have.”

Rockhold will be making his first UFC title defense against Bisping (29-7), who took the fight on two weeks notice after Weidman pulled out due to injury.

The former Strikeforce champion is a minus-1,000 favorite over the Englishman, according to William Hill. Rockhold defeated Bisping by second-round submission in 2014.

“Doesn’t matter to me,” Rockhold said about the opponent change. “He’s (Bisping) an annoying guy if you let him get in your head, he can get to a lot of guys, but I just keep my composure. I’m going to put ‘em up, find my opening and I’m going to make my kill.”

Bisping doesn’t care if he’s the heavy underdog, he’s just glad to finally get a title shot after 10 years of competing in the UFC.

 

“I know Rockhold, I know what he’s capable of, I know he’s a very good fighter, but the opponent isn’t important,” Bisping said. “This is about me fulfilling my destiny.”

Eventually Rockhold wants to give Weidman his rematch when healthy and looks forward to another fight with middleweight contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Rockhold defeated Souza by unanimous decision in 2011 to take the Brazilian’s Strikeforce belt.

“Bisping and all those guys could talk, they can all complain and all whine,” Rockhold said. “They all lost.”

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0492. Follow him on Twitter:@gmanzano24

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