The UFC wanted me to fly across the Pacific to fight Robert Whittaker in Perth on Sunday. Fine. It would’ve been something special, the newly crowned middleweight champion making his first title defence in his home country against me, the former champion.
I knew I could’ve beaten him on his own turf. Sunday, I’ll take care of Yoel Romero, and then I’ll beat Whittaker on my home turf.
Whittaker’s on my terms now. I came here to fight him. He backed out. So I’m going to handle my business and we’ll settle that score later … on my terms, in my country.
Maybe that’s too abrasive for you, too real.
I try to speak to who people really are. I might get aggressive at stages. Some people don’t want to hear it, they might hate you for it. But what I say, and who I am, is real.
Fighting is completely different from anything else. Being a fighter means you cannot question yourself for a fucking second.
If you glitch, you will get hit first, you will fall. This is a game of inches and if you second-guess yourself or hesitate, you fucking fail. So forgive me for erring on the side of my ego, for being too brash.
To be humble at some level … yeah, OK, but I know what the fuck I’m going to do as a fighter. I can’t think it differently. And I never have.
If you have this mindset to pursue your humble side, you’re not going to get far in this game. You might get lucky here or there, but someone’s going to figure you out and find you, so where’s the sense in dwelling on that?
I COULD LIVE HERE
Look, I’m a relaxed enough person outside the cage, away from fighting. I know my role outside the game. I can get down with people. I live a diverse life, and I think my spirit toward the adventure of fighting speaks to that.
I do know my lane. I know when to take a backseat. I’m not always looking for a fight.
In this game, however, there’s no offseason. You have to manage your time away from the cage well or you can burn out real quick. Athletes from many sports burn out in many realms of life.
So I’ve come to believe, more than anything else, that you limit your learning curve if you’re in the gym too much. You get almost blinded and just follow the routine.
I might get aggressive at stages. Some people don’t want to hear it, they might hate you for it. But what I say, and who I am, is real.
When you get away from it, you can analyze, and you get perspective, about what you were doing and what you can do better, a different vision for the sport. I’ve always taken advantage of my time away and remain mindful of the importance of that.
I don’t have a family – no wife or kids – so I embrace my free time to experience different realms of life before I come back.
One of those trips was exactly one year ago this weekend.
I came to Australia on a surf trip during the Super Bowl in America. I watched the game here. I went to Bali with a friend to surf, then trekked to the Gold Coast and met another friend and we did some fishing. I love Australia.
I could see myself living here at some point. It’s one of the rare places in the world I really enjoy this much. Great environment, good people who are passionate and wild, a lot of fun and they know how to work hard.
Taking a break like that clears and expands my mind. When I travel, I’m always diving into new things, like seeking information from trainers I meet. I’m a travelin’ man, so I’m going to take advantage of that knowledge.
MILLIONAIRE MATCHMAKER & DEMI
Part of the ride is to gather with friends, and while it doesn’t happen too much these days after I became UFC middleweight champion a couple years ago, some big people still overstep their boundaries in certain situations.
There’s a lot of people in the world thinking they can bully whoever they want. Like I’ve said, I’m not going to be disrespected, so I might push back a little bit.
They might want to, too, until their friend taps them on the shoulder and tells them who the fuck I am.
I’ve had that happen multiple times with some big, big characters, guys that are massively big … but I’m not going to let them walk on me or my friends. Usually, they figure it out before it goes any further – that, or someone figures it out for them.
One place I’d say my ego got a bad rep is on that dating reality television show you might’ve seen me on a few years ago.
I’ll say this: What I said on that show … that’s not necessarily me. Editing can make you look any way they want you to look. They can misconstrue your words. Not only that, they can subtitle in and give voiceovers like they did in that show.
They put words in my mouth in different scenes from different areas and cut and pasted it to make it look a certain way.
I was joking and trashing the whole show and they elevated it to another level. Let’s be honest in the first place: You’re not going to find the love of your life from a fucking dating show that goes to the streets of San Diego and L.A., asking people if they want to date a celebrity millionaire.
You talk to 20 girls on those streets and one of them will be the love of your life when they all want to date a celebrity millionaire?
Come on people, let’s be real.
I found myself moved from the sports pages to the gossip pages again recently when I dated Demi Lovato.
It is what it is. I was in the gym and watched her train. She’s passionate. She’s talented. I took to that and we hung out a bit. Anytime you find someone like that – I appreciate passionate, driven women – it’s nice. And at the time, it was fun for me and she’s still a nice girl.
I’ve learned it is what they make of it.
WHERE I RATE WHITTAKER
When the breaks from fighting are over, it allows me to return to my gym and emerge with newfound fire and vision.
Where I train, at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, I count current light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, lightweight title challenger Khabib Nurmagomedov and former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez as stablemates.
There’s a chance D.C., Khabib and I will have retained or won belts within a span of three months, and Cain could very well win his back by next year at the latest.
Being around each other helps us all tremendously, just the inspiration we gain from being around people with this same type of identity.
I noticed Khabib when he first came in about six years ago from Russia. He didn’t speak English very well, but he didn’t need to talk.
You could just see the look in his eyes and his ability and we connected very quickly. I brought him into my routine at the gym, kind of showed him the way, and he proved himself over and over again. I really was impressed by his work ethic and his mindset.
D.C. came into the gym about seven, eight years ago, a loudmouth, overstepping his bounds, instigating fights, and I’m like, ‘Who the fuck is this guy? I want to fight him.’
If you have this mindset to pursue your humble side, you’re not going to get far in this game.
The next day, a coach set up a sparring session and we went toe-to-toe. He must’ve been 250 pounds at the time. I was 200. I kicked him in the head, he slammed me on my head. We got back up and started swinging and trying to knock each other out until our arms were exhausted, and then I was like, ‘I kind of like this guy.’
I’ll always claim myself the winner, every fucking time, and I’ll always be giving up 40 pounds, too. But we love each other and our fights will only be in AKA.
Cain is no joke, either. He put some beatings on me like I’ve never had before.
That’s the gym we’ve had since back in the day. We all pushed each other to this place. We all talked about getting those belts at the same time. We all knew how realistic it was, to all hold them simultaneously.
I know D.C. has one, that he could have another by beating heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic in July, and Khabib should get his. It’s been a great time, a wild ride and it’s meant to be.
I’m thrilled to be back in Australia, where I beat Michael Bisping a few years ago. Great community, especially Perth itself. Big mining town. You know these people will be loud. I’ve got a lot of friends coming out, so I’m excited to go out and perform.
And I’m sure Whittaker will be there to watch. He’s one of the best I’ve seen. I’ve watched him for a long time. There’s a reason he beat Yoel Romero. He fought that guy to the end and proved a lot. And each time he fights, I’m more impressed with him. He’s real.
I relished the opportunity to fight Whittaker and to be the undisputed champion. But going out there and beating Yoel in the fashion I expect will speak to who the real champion is. We’ll both have beaten Yoel to be the interim champion, so it comes down to who did it better.
That’s the real fucking champion in my eyes and I think people realize that. I’ve beaten ‘Jacare’ like he has, Tim Kennedy and many more guys than Whittaker has … Bisping, too.
So there’s no lack of adrenaline now. Yoel Romero is a killer, a dangerous character and he shows a lot of things to make you realize this is not a game, that there’s no room for error. He backs it up.
Not only that, but the man has been known to cheat time and again, so you know you can’t take anything for granted. I’m out here to prove a point. I’m out here to show who I am against a guy who’s one of the best to grace this sport and dangerous in every way. So I’m fucking focused and I know what I have to do.
I’ll beat Yoel, and then I’ll beat Whittaker on my home turf.
Luke Rockhold - Contributor