Ahead of the much-anticipated release of EA Sports UFC2 game, GiveMeSport sat down and spoke to middleweight champion Luke Rockhold on everything from how he's changed since claiming the belt, to Conor McGregor's chances of beating Nate Diaz in Las Vegas in the early hours of this morning.
Check out what the 31-year-old, who was speaking at the EA SPORTS UFC 2 'Finish the Fight' shoot, had to say below.
Hi Luke, first off - how are you feeling about fighting at UFC 199?
"I got a rare opportunity at UFC 199 and I am looking forward to it. UFC 200 would have been nice but we've got some cool things to come, and I am pretty happy with what I have been given."
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What sort of shape are you in at the moment?
"Training has been going pretty well. I’ve had some photo shoots so I’ve had to keep in pretty good shape [laughs]. I've been on my game recently. I haven’t got too far out of shape since my last fight you know, I've been staying mobile, staying active.
Having the belt and being champion has made me think about my approach a little more. Rather than getting too far out of shape and enjoying it all a little more, I'm all in on my next fight."
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So your mentality has changed since you won the title against Chris Weidman in December?
"A bit. I used to goof off a lot. I used to enjoy myself and still do to a certain extent, but I think I am more eager to get back in and not spend as much time off now. The paychecks are just too damn good, you know."
So you haven’t had a chance to go and sample the London night-life...
"No, not yet. I may still find time to pop out and hang out with some friends though. [laughs]"
You’re fighting Weidman at UFC 199 - do you see it going the same way as your first fight?
"I see it going completely…..worse [laughs]. I just don’t see where Chris Weidman is going to threaten me. He’s a tough guy, but I’m better on my feet, better on the ground, he’s not going to threaten me with his wrestling. As long as I am healthy and I don’t pick up an infection and have to be on antibiotics like last time, I’ll have the energy and the output to finish the fight earlier.
"I really think I am more dynamic, more technical. I’m just better than this guy. Mentally I’m stronger, I’m more focused. I think he’s going to have to second-guess himself more this time around. I'm going to hit him hard, I'm going to hit him early and I'm going to finish him early."
Three of your last four fight wins have come via submission and you're known as a technician - do you favour the more technical side of the sport over the blood and guts heavy hitting?
"Yes. I am a very technical guy. I’m proud of my technique, my fluidity and my skill, that’s what I work on every day. I try to out-technique guys. I have that brawlers mentality and I can get into that realm, but when I‘m at my best is when I’m patient, precise and technical.
"I'm going to hit Chris Weidman hard, I'm going to hit him early and I'm going to finish him early."
"When I can sit back, read my opponents and counter them, that’s when I'm at my best, and I have to try and do that every day. I train with two of the biggest, best guys in the world, so I have to be the more agile, technical, more fluid guy."
Looking forward to your next fight and beyond - do you feel like there're areas that you can still improve in?
"There’s so much to learn in the sport and so much to master, I don’t feel as though I have reached my potential. I’m still understanding different movements and techniques so I’m still growing in that respect. Athletically I don’t think I am anywhere near my prime, my family have always been late bloomers so I don’t think I have reached my potential just yet. I’m growing, learning and trying to improve every day."
Conor McGregor will make a major jump-up in weight when he takes on Nate Diaz tonight - how big of a risk do you think he's taking?
"I think it’s an admirable thing for him to do, to jump up two weight classes to 170 pounds. For him just to jump to 155 pounds is intriguing enough and he holds his size very well. I admire his balls for taking a last minute fight and going up by that much weight. For him to step up and take that fight is impressive."
How do you see the fight going?
"It should be an interesting matchup because Conor is used to being the longer guy and using his range, but he’s not going to be able to do that against Nate. Nate has great boxing skills but I don’t feel as though he has the power to put Conor away. Nate’s a lot better on the ground but I don’t see how this fight is going to make it to the ground.
"Conor’s boxing is a little cleaner, he’s got more power and I am sure he is in better shape than Nate so I’d have to favour Conor."
Luke Rockhold was speaking behind the scenes at the EA SPORTS UFC 2 ‘Finish the Fight’ challenge event. Out on the 17th March on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, pre-order now and find out more about the launch of EA SPORTS UFC 2 at easports.com/uk/ufc
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