Luke Rockhold wants top contender bout alongside Velasquez at Houston's UFC 166


luke-rockhold-11.jpgLAS VEGAS – Luke Rockhold felt some first-time octagon jitters – he admits it.

Despite his fair share of fights on the big stage, Rockhold said he definitely noticed a difference when he made his UFC debut in May against Vitor Belfort in Brazil. That fight resulted in a first-round knockout loss from a Belfort spinning kick to the head.

“It was really bright,” Rockhold on Wednesday told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) at a charity event in Las Vegas. “That’s the one thing that was a little different. (And) the mat was a little slippery – I’m not gonna lie. But a fight’s a fight for me. I’ve been fighting for a long time on the big stage, and I can’t say it was that much different than what I’ve been through in my fight career. I just tried to block out the boos and not think about what (the Brazilian fans are) actually saying.

“I got caught, and I’m trying to get past it. I’m not trying to dwell on the past – I’m want to focus on the future and what’s in front of me.”

Rockhold (10-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) hadn’t lost a fight since 2007 in the second bout of his pro career. After that, he signed with Strikeforce and won nine straight fights, including a middleweight title fight against Ronaldo Souza in 2011, then a pair of title defenses in 2012 before the promotion’s merger with the UFC.

The Californian, who trains at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, is trying to not put too much stock into the loss to Belfort. He believes he was doing things right in the fight when he merely got caught with Belfort’s roundhouse kick.

But that doesn’t mean he didn’t take some time to be a little bummed out after the loss, which took place as the main event of UFC on FX 8.

“It’s hard to accept it – it’s hard to move forward,” he said. “But I’ve always grown with my losses and gotten better in every sport. This is no different. I’m going to learn from it and move on. It’s hard, because I just got caught. It wasn’t like I got beat up or he out-techniqued me. I felt like I was starting to get comfortable. The (octagon) nerves finally fell off – and I got caught.”

But with that fight seven weeks in the rearview mirror, Rockhold is trying to focus on getting healthy, then doing just that – moving forward.

And he hopes he can rebound for his first UFC victory against the type of fighter who will not only test him, but keep him at the forefront of 185-pound division. With that in mind, it’s pretty easy for him to look at the calendar and see a date that might work out pretty well.

His AKA teammate, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, will defend his title against Junior dos Santos on Oct. 19 at UFC 166 at Toyota Center in Houston. The chance to train alongside his teammate and peak at the same time might be hard to resist.

“I’m fairly healthy – I’ve got some things I’m working through from the last training camp and trying to nurse myself back,” he said. “I know I need to perform this next fight, so I want to give myself the best opportunity to do that. But I want to fight a top contender, too. Cain’s fighting Oct. 19. My birthday’s Oct. 17. That’s good timing. I’d love to have a birthday present and fight a top guy and get myself back in the mix. Texas is awesome, and I’d love to go there and fight and train with my teammate.”

For the latest on UFC 166, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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