Luke Rockhold created a bit of a stir when the final Strikeforce middleweight champion said he wanted a “warmup fight” before a potential UFC title fight and mentioned Vitor Belfort as his preferred opponent.
But Belfort, who recently joined MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com) to discuss their upcoming UFC on FX 8 headliner, had a surprising response to the Strikeforce import’s comments.
Did Belfort feel disrespected?
“Not at all,” he said. “I have all the respect for guys like him. He asked, and he received it. … I don’t pick fights. I accept fights. And he deserved it. I like his attitude. I see it as a positive. I don’t see it as personal. This is a job. This is what makes people interested in seeing us fight.”
Belfort (22-10 MMA, 11-6 UFC) and Rockhold (10-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) now headline UFC on FX 8, which takes place May 18 at Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Santa Catarina, Brazil. The FX-televised fight marks Belfort’s third in Brazil since early 2012 and could set up a title shot for the winner.
While the middleweight division awaits the outcome of July’s UFC 162 headliner between champion Anderson Silva and challenger Chris Weidman, Belfort said he’s not personally dwelling on anything past the Rockhold fight.
“Tomorrow will take care of itself,” he said. “The key is to take care of today.”
That’s included a training camp with experts from all disciplines, including kickboxer Tyrone Spong and world-class wrestlers, and all weight classes. While once a mere boxer with exceptional raw power, Belfort has rounded out his game during a recent career resurgence. After all, after moving up a weight class, he nearly tapped out light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones with an armbar back in September.
Against Rockhold, who’s won nine straight fights, Belfort believes his new skills will be put to the test. And he likes his chances of picking up a ninth win in his past 11 fights.
“It’s a great fight with a great fighter, very well-rounded, great camp and has a lot of skills,” Belfort said. “It’s a good fit for me. I’m excited. It’s a good challenge for me. I’ve prepared myself, and now it’s getting closer.
“I’m not just getting prepared for Luke. I’m getting prepared to be the best I can be. That’s how I can give back to the fans, my family and to God for the gifts He gave me.”
The 36-year-old Brazilian said he’s now in the peak shape of his career. However, his resurgence has drawn a fair number of critics, most notably due to his long-suspected and recently confirmed use of testosterone-replacement therapy.
Belfort, though, said he simply avoids the negativity.
“The haters are always going to be around,” he said. “The key is to just don’t listen to it, to what people think, because it doesn’t change anything. You just have to stick to it. No sacrifice, no glory.”
He said that mentality and positivity – as well as his faith – will get him where he wants to be and satisfy the people who mean the most to him.
“The blood of Jesus washed me, cleansed me, healed me,” he said. “It gave me life. I have faith. The more people doubt me, the more the Spirit grows in me. It’s just the mindset that I have. I’m just focused.
“I’m not into impressing anybody. I don’t care about people’s opinions. To me it doesn’t change anything. What people think about me doesn’t make me who I am. What makes me who I am are the things I do and what I believe. The people who mean the most to me are already by my side.”
For the latest on UFC on FX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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