There are times when respect matters more than anything. Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold may have earned credibility amongst his peers, but it is his place in the bigger picture which still pushes his buttons.
Rockhold steps into action this Saturday against No.1 contender Tim Kennedy. He is expecting a war, but knows no matter what caliber of performance he puts on, the recognition of his place amongst the sport's best middleweights could still be overlooked.
Since hitting the Strikeforce cage in 2008, Rockhold has battled his way from prospect status to undisputed champion of the 185-pound division. He is a proud champion, and fully prepared to do whatever it takes to make a statement against Kennedy.
"You only live once and I live to be the best," Rockhold told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "Until I am I won't be happy. I have to keep putting on solid performances against whoever I face and I plan on doing that this coming weekend. I have to put a stamp on fights.
"In Strikeforce it doesn't seem that we get the respect we deserve and I plan on putting a stamp on this one. I want to let everyone know I can compete with and beat anybody.
A quick look at Rockhold's record and it becomes clear his performances speak for themselves. All but one of his victories have came within the first round, and he's been able to put his opposition away in a variety of fashions.
He has been able to capitalize on a well-rounded skill set which will most definitely be put to the test when he squares off with Kennedy. He knows Kennedy wants to take their fight to the ground and Rockhold plans to have a few things waiting for him.
"I want to keep my distance, use my range and reach in this fight," Rockhold said. "If he does manage to close the distance and get inside, my counter-wrestling is on point. If he gets me down he won't be able to keep me there. I can get up no matter who is on top of me and Kennedy won't be any different. I want to keep my distance and catch him coming in. I believe I can do that.
"He's coming in there to beat me and I don't like losing. I'm in this to win. He wants my belt and that just isn't going to happen. Anyone who comes after it—I have to go out there and put it on them. I have to beat their ass.
"I'm bringing a high-paced, exciting fight. I don't like boring fights and I want to keep the fans excited. From top to bottom this fight card is amazing and it's going to end in dramatic fashion with the main event. I'm either going to knock his head off or I'm going to rip it off; one or the other. Fans need to tune in because they are not going to want to miss this."