Luke Rockhold knows a champion’s mentality.
Amid the media buildup for his UFC 199 bout against Michael Bisping, a time when fighters are prodded about fight camps and game plans, Rockhold was asked about the NBA’s Golden State Warriors — the defending NBA champions who were down 3-1 at the time against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
“I think the Warriors are champions and I think they are going to do the job tonight,” Rockhold said, defying the basketball journalists and fans who were writing obituaries about Golden State’s seemingly insurmountable hole. “They have to compose themselves, relax and find their timing. That’s technique. That’s how champions do.”
Guess what? The Warriors came back, becoming only the 10th team in NBA history to mount a comeback from 3-1 down.
What made Rockhold so confident when professional watchers of the sport were writing off the team? Sure, part of it is fandom — the UFC fighter hails from nearby Santa Cruz, Calif., and has been spotted sitting courtside. But it’s more than that: Champions know champions.
And Rockhold, a former Strikeforce and now UFC middleweight champion, is all about that life.
Since winning the belt at UFC 194 last December, the 31-year-old has not been shy about enjoying the spoils. Inside the octagon he’s shown he deserves it with a 15-2 professional record and a list of victories that includes some of the biggest names in the division: Lyoto Machida, Ronaldo Souza, Chris Weidman, to name a few.
This Saturday will go a long way toward proving he deserves the label even more. Initially, Rockhold was preparing to defend his crown against Weidman, but a late injury allowed long-time rival Michael Bisping to step in as a replacement.
That hasn’t changed things for Rockhold. It’s not how champions do it.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images
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