LAS VEGAS – With the majority of Wednesday’s UFC 194 press conference questions being directed at the featherweight champions Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor, the co-main eventers snuck jabs in where they could.
Both Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold would eventually get their turn to speak, even if was nearly half-an-hour before Rockhold was asked a question. And in a somewhat subdued press conference for what many are considering the biggest event of 2015, there were some shots fired.
"One more point to prove, one more statement to make, it's going to come Saturday night," the challenger Rockhold said. "I'm the better middleweight. Fighting is about relaxation. It's about adjustments. Who has the focus. Who can face adversity and work with it and flow with it. I feel I'm the man. I know how to deal with it. We both will hit adversity in this fight. I know how to flow with it. I know how to work with it.
"Chris is a control freak, and when he doesn't have control he tenses up and it forces him into a different fight. I'm going to stay composed, I'm going to stay relaxed, I'm going to make the adjustments and I'm going to make him pay. I'm going to take the belt home."
Through this declaration, Weidman only smiled.
"I'm not a control freak, my wife's a control freak," Weidman said. "I'm very laid back. Basically, on Saturday night, I'm going to give this guy a reality check. I think, if you asked me his biggest weakness, I don't think it's something physical. I think it's in his head because of his ego. And that's what I'm coming for. I'm just going to give him some reality. I'm going to throw him around the ring. It's going to be a fun night."
Not that there weren't some comical moments, too.
When Weidman was asked if he was okay playing second fiddle for UFC 194, with the spotlight so firmly on McGregor and Aldo, the Long Island native deferred.
"Go ahead, Luke," he said. "Ladies first."
"I got to thank them for promoting the card," Rockhold said. "It takes a load off my back. I get to focus on training and being as technical and as focused as possible. I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to go take his belt."
"I’m definitely comfortable with where everything’s been," Weidman said. "Conor and Jose, it’s a card people have been looking forward to for I guess a year now. There’s so much hype behind it. I’m completely comfortable worrying about retaining me belt."
The respect between the fighters has been apparent throughout the lead-up to UFC 194, though both have been very serious when it comes down to the fight. When asked about the mutual respect the two had for each other, AKA’s Rockhold laid out the stakes.
"There’s always been mutual respect between me and Chris," Rockhold said. "But this is the world title. This is about taking another man’s food off his plate. He’s got kids to feed, and I’ve got a statement to make. This is everything, everything we work for our whole lives. Obviously, when you’re in the gym torturing yourself day to day, you have to think to yourself there’s another man trying to take this from you. Think of what you’ve earned, what you’ve worked for your whole life.
"We realize what’s on the line. We’re the two best middleweights in the world, and you guys are in for a show."
As the 31-year-old Weidman goes for his fourth title defense since defeating Anderson Silva back at UFC 162, he had a chance to reflect on being atop the division for such a good stretch.
"I think this is the toughest division in the UFC, and I’m lucky enough to be in it where I’m at against the best guys in the world," he said. "It really doesn’t matter if I’m going against Anderson Silva, Vitor [Belfort], [Lyoto] Machida and now Luke, it’s always a battle against myself. It’s beating myself. So [I’m] just working hard everyday and staying focused."
Not yielding an inch, the challenger put out a stern message to Weidman.
"I feel this is my time," Rockhold said. "I feel I separated myself technically, mentally, physically, and these guys have a lot of catch-up work to do. I’m ready to fight. I’m the better man."