Luke Rockhold has looked askance at the UFC’s officially sanctioned rankings.
He’s the fifth-ranked contender, according to the media members who vote. His opponent at UFC on FX 8 on Saturday, veteran Vitor Belfort, is No. 2.
“Those rankings are pretty stupid to tell you the truth,” Rockhold told FOXSports.com. “These guys are not putting their money where their mouths are. The people who are putting money on the line are the smart ones. The odds-makers have me as a favorite. For some reason, I’m still way down in the rankings.”
While not overwhelming, sports books have Rockhold favored at UFC on FX in Brazil. The reasons seem simple: Rockhold enters on a nine-fight winning streak and as the final Strikeforce middleweight champ before the organization was absorbed by the UFC earlier this year.
Rockhold, 28, is also eight years younger than Belfort. But Belfort is getting a little help in that age department, at least as far as Rockhold is concerned, with the help of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
“I’m prepared for whatever,” Rockhold told FOXSports.com. “I know I’ve fought guys on steroids in the past and I kicked some ass. I’m ready for this opportunity. I’ll truly get more satisfaction beating guys on steroids. It fuels me more.”
The Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA) has given the OK for Belfort to use TRT, something that likely wouldn’t be allowed to happen if this fight were in Nevada or another state. Belfort previously tested positive for elevated testosterone levels while with another organization and Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer has said an application for a TRT exemption would probably be rejected.
TRT remains a hot topic in the MMA, especially after UFC president Dana White said earlier this year he’d like to see it banned by each commission. White said in March that the UFC would test athletes who are on TRT to ensure testosterone levels remain within normal ranges.
“He knew I was on it when he asked to fight me,” Belfort said. “I’m going to train and I’m going to fight while he’s focusing on that. He just needs to keep quiet. The wise man keeps his mouth shut.”
Rockhold is the latest Strikeforce star to headline a UFC card, following women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey (UFC 157), Gegard Mousasi (UFC on FUEL TV 9) and Gilbert Melendez (UFC on FOX 7). Rousey and Mousasi won their matches, and Melendez fell to UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson in a close decision.
“That’s exactly how I expected it to go,” Rockhold said of the success of Strikeforce fighters in the UFC. “I knew our guys could beat anybody out there. We didn’t have the full respect from the fans (before the merger) and you could see that on Twitter and other places. The Strikeforce fighters are going in there and getting the job done. People are finally coming round. We are getting that respect from the media, the gyms and the fans.”
Rockhold said he’s recovered from a wrist injury that caused him to scrub two Strikeforce matches and the shoulder that previously gave him issues is also 100 percent. Along with training full bore since January, he said he’s added something else to his regimen.
“I’ve been studying,” Rockhold said. “I’ve spent a lot of time watching tape. I fall asleep every night watching Vitor Belfort fights — not that his fights put me to sleep or anything. They definitely aren’t boring.”
Rockhold said there are two things that are evident from his viewings: Belfort hasn’t changed much in an MMA career that began in 1996 and there’s no way Belfort should be ranked ahead of him.