Rockhold looks to leave impression on Brazil, UFC

Rockhold looks to leave impression on Brazil, UFC
May 17, 2013, 8:00 pm
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"I expect it to be hostile ... It’s going to be a big fight and when it comes to fight time I got tunnel vision." -- Luke Rockhold

Nitesh Dutt

For any most of us ten months feels like…well, ten months. But, for a championship caliber fighter at the peak of their career with no idea of where they’ll fight or who they’ll fight next, ten months can feel like an eternity.

That was the problem facing Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold. Last July he successfully defended his title against Tim Kennedy. Since then, he’s been a part of rumors for possible title bouts and a title vs. title fight against UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. A fight from Silva is far from happening, but Rockhold is set to face another Brazilian.

Rockhold, a Santa Cruz native, will make his UFC debut against former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Vitor Belfort in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. Belfort is coming off a decisive TKO victory over Michael Bisping in January on a card that also took place in Brazil. Having the support of the Brazilian crowd can be the best thing in the world for a MMA fighter, but Rockhold doesn’t expect that luxury.

“I expect it to be hostile,” Rockhold said on Chronicle Live. “Fighting Belfort in Brazil…he’s a big superstar down there. It’s going to be a big fight and when it comes to fight time I got tunnel vision.”

He will need that tunnel vision against the always dangerous Belfort. Especially in the first-round -- 15 of Belfort’s 22 professional wins have come via first-round stoppages.

Jitters or nerves, that most fighters get, could get Rockhold in his octagon debut. And after heeding the warnings of his AKA teammate Daniel Cormier, Luke is looking at his bout as just another fight.

“That’s what they say,” talking about his career changing now. “For me, I’ve put myself in that place so many times before and I don’t feel like it will be any different than a regular fight.”  

It might be far from a “regular fight” though.

This is a bout between two champion caliber fighters that are used to the spotlight, Luke albeit on a smaller scale. Vitor comes in with the mindset that a victory will get him back into title contention whereas Luke understands he’s a few fights away. Of all the former Strikeforce champions to come over to the UFC, only Gilbert Melendez was given a title shot in his debut bout.

There may not be a title shot in the immediate future for Rockhold, but the former Strikeforce champion is on a short list of middleweight contenders. For a fighter that’s sat idly by as he watched others make debuts and be successful, Rockhold is determined to follow other Strikeforce alumni that have won their UFC debuts.

Nitesh Dutt is a Productions Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.