JARAGUA DO SUL, Brazil – Prior to Saturday night, Luke Rockhold (10-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) hadn’t lost in the past five-and-a-half years. After suffering a first-round TKO loss to Vitor Belfort (23-10 MMA, 12-6 UFC), he’s anxious to erase that feeling from his mind.
“It doesn’t feel good,” Rockhold said. “I haven’t lost in a long time. I don’t like losing.
“I train to win, and I came to win. It definitely doesn’t feel good.”
Rockhold and Belfort faced off in the main event of Saturday’s UFC on FX 8 card, which took place at Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. Rockhold was making his UFC debut and hoped to make a statement against MMA legend Belfort, who boasts a near-17-year history in the sport and is a former UFC champion.
After a brief feeling-out process, a patient Belfort unleashed a pinpoint spinning wheel kick that landed flush to the face and sent Rockhold toppling to the floor. Belfort seized the opportunity and swarmed with punches until the fight was waved off at the 2:32 mark of the opening round.
Rockhold said he wasn’t exactly sure how it all went wrong.
“I mean it’s hard to say what went wrong,” Rockhold told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I was feeling good. I was finding my timing. I felt like I was controlling things, and then he landed a spinning heel kick to my head.”
Rockhold and Belfort had endured a spirited build-up to the fight with the former Strikeforce champ openly questioning the legitimacy of the Brazilian’s commission-approved use of testosterone-replacement therapy.
Things got more heated during fight week. A press conference staredown saw Belfort put his fist next to Rockhold’s chin. Rockhold countered at the following day’s weigh-ins by pressing into his opponent’s face, earning a shove from Belfort in the process. Despite the emotion, Rockhold said he didn’t believe he fought recklessly.
“I felt good in this fight,” Rockhold said. “I had a great camp. I felt good in the fight. I was focused. I don’t know if I got overconfident or what exactly happened. I don’t know. I thought I had it.
“I felt good. I saw his punches. I saw everything. I was landing some shots. I felt like I was starting to control things, and then I got caught. It happens.”
Rockhold offered a bit of an olive branch after the fight by crediting his opponent’s skills – and not TRT – for earning Belfort the win.
“TRT had nothing to do with that kick,” Rockhold said.
Still, he admits the sting of the loss is difficult to swallow, and he hopes to return to action as quickly as possible.
“It sucks right now,” Rockhold said. “I don’t know. I want to get back in there. I want to fight, obviously. Everyone says it, but what can you do at this point? I want to get in there. I want to fight. I want to redeem myself.”
Brazilian media members suggested a potential rematch with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, a fellow former Strikeforce champ who Rockhold beat in 2011. However, UFC officials tends to match fighters with similar recent results when arranging bouts.
Rockhold could have potentially earned a fight with the winner of July’s UFC middleweight title fight between champ Anderson Silva and challenger Chris Weidman, but now his next move is unclear.
Rockhold kept his head down for most of the evening’s post-event presser, and his emotion was evident. But he also seemed to deal with the reality of his position, and he said he now hopes to get back to work as quickly as possible.
“I lost to one of the best guys in the world, and it was something pretty spectacular,” Rockhold said. “I don’t know what to really think about anything right now. I just want to get back and fight and beat someone up. That’s what I’m focused on. Good job by Vitor. What can I say?”
For complete coverage of UFC on FX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.