Luke Rockhold couldn’t help but laugh when he saw a clip of Anthony Smith threatening to “drill a hole” through his face at the UFC’s recent seasonal press conference in Atlanta.
“It’s pretty funny,” Rockhold said when asked about Smith’s words recently on The MMA Hour. “I didn’t really realize I was still in his head that bad, so I don’t know. Maybe the guy’s just, like I said before, he’s scared of the truth. I don’t know what I did to exactly provoke all of that, but … I just talk the truth too much, what can I say.”
The two Strikeforce veterans have traded barbs in interviews ever since Rockhold took aim at Smith’s résumé ahead of Smith’s failed title bid against Jon Jones at UFC 235. At the time, Rockhold had just finalized a decision to move up from middleweight to light heavyweight and he pointed to Smith’s sudden ascension up the division as proof that the road to a title shot at 205 pounds was easier than one at 185 pounds.
Rockhold also predicted that Smith wouldn’t last a round against Jones and said the light heavyweight division was “there for the taking,” noting that his own successes at 185 pounds — winning titles in both Strikeforce and the UFC — far eclipsed what Smith was able to achieve in the division in either promotion.
His comments prompted an indignant response from Smith, and the war of words between the two light heavyweights has only escalated since. But even if Smith harbors genuine anger toward the former middleweight champion, Rockhold isn’t concerned.
“It’s just me coming into this division, I wanted a fight, he seemed like a logical opponent,” Rockhold said. “And then they trot him up and Jon picked him off as an easy fight. So [Jones] basically made the UFC take it, and I just didn’t think much of the matchup, and obviously I don’t think the rest of the world thought much of the matchup once it happened.
“I got a problem telling the truth, so I don’t think much of him,” added Rockhold. “I don’t think he’s a credible character in the division, really. He’s about to get shut down. He’s about to get it [from Alexander Gustafsson at UFC Stockholm]. He’s going to get beat up bad, back-and-back, and be put in his place, just like I said.”
Smith ended up proving Rockhold wrong in at least one regard.
“Lionheart” lost a unanimous decision to Jones at UFC 235, far outlasting Rockhold’s prediction of a first-round stoppage. But even in that case, Rockhold wasn’t particularly impressed by what he saw.
“I think it was a weird fight for Jon,” Rockhold said. “Maybe he’s down to his last picogram and just doesn’t have it like he used to, I don’t know. So I don’t know, Jon didn’t really fight a fight, so it’s hard to say. It was pretty much, it was a very awkward fight, I couldn’t even pay attention. I was up [in the stands], we had a box, and I literally didn’t pay attention at all, it was so boring. I tried.”
Rockhold makes his own light heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz on July 6 at UFC 239, and said he expects Smith to lose “pretty easily” to Gustafsson at UFC Stockholm.
Smith has already made it clear that regardless of what happens at UFC Stockholm, he wants to settle his beef with Rockhold next. But he may not get his wish.
According to Rockhold, the only way that fight will come to fruition is if Smith pulls off the upset against Gustafsson on June 1st.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense after he gets his ass beat by Gustafsson, so I’m going to focus on what’s ahead and what’s in the moment,” Rockhold said. “I’m going to go handle business and I’m going to look ahead. I never really look behind. … If he gets past Gustafsson, if he defies expectations, then that’s a fight I will definitely entertain.”