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New UFC champ Luke Rockhold believes he sent message to Strikeforce haters

Esther Lin photo

LAS VEGAS -- Luke Rockhold made no secret during the runup to UFC 194 that he was carrying the banner for Strikeforce alumni.

Rockhold, who came into the UFC as the final Strikeforce middleweight champion when Zuffa bought the legendary promotion and later folded it, believes his accomplishments in his prior company -- where he defeated Ronaldo Souza for the belt, then successfully defended it against Keith Jardine and Tim Kennedy -- never got their proper due.

And after defeating Chris Weidman to win the UFC middleweight championship via fourth-round TKO in the co-main event of UFC 194, Rockhold believes he was vindicated.

"I've been saying it for a long time," Rockhold said at the UFC 194 post-fight press conference. "I believe I'm the best. I believe I've been the best in this sport for a long time. People want to beat down my Strikeforce accomplishments. I've taken my game to a newer level. I new I'd come in and I'd outperform them and I'd get the job done."

Rockhold joins a list of Strikeforce alums who have held UFC gold, which includes current heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, current light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, and former UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

But the new champ did admit that he's still in a bit of disbelief: Both to be a part of a show as monumental as UFC 194 and that the bout went as well as it did.

"Being a part of this card, UFC 194, was unreal," Rockhold said. "I couldn't even imagine being on a bigger stage and putting on a better performance. For the fight to play out that way is unreal and I'm just at a loss for words. I'm just trying to take it all in."

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