JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, and how prepared do you feel that you were at the time?
LR: I obviously had a lot of nerves with my first time fighting. But I had been in some scraps and I was prepared and ready. It always helps being with a team like AKA and seeing all these guys on the big stage doing so well. And I was doing well with them in the gym so I had a lot of confidence through those guys.
JB: Your first loss was in your second fight. How did you react to the loss and how did it affect you moving forward in your career?
LR: That loss had a lot to do with my career and how far Iíve gotten. It was an eye-opener. Because of the guys I had in the gym and that I was doing so well, I really didnít believe that anybody could touch me at that point in my career. I donít know if I took it as seriously as I should have at the time. The guy I was supposed to fight at 185 dropped out on a Sunday night before and I was freaking out because I had no money and I needed a fight and I had trained hard for it. I took a last-minute fight and went up in weight to 205. I really knew nothing about him and just kind of went in there scrapping. I didnít really put MMA together yet. When I was wrestling, I was wrestling. When I was doing Jiu-Jitsu, I was doing Jiu-Jitsu. When I was striking, I was trying to strike. I just hadnít put everything together yet. I got caught in the fight. It was a huge eye-opener. You canít take anything for granted in MMA. Youíve got to train the best you can and do your homework on your opponent and go into every fight with no regrets really. It was scary at the time too. I loved fighting and I loved MMA. It kind of scared me a little bit because I was seeing this as a career for myself and losing a fight is a big deal in MMA. I wanted to make this work. So that next fight was the most tense Iíve ever been in my career for a fight.
JB: You had a brilliant 9-0 run in Strikeforce, winning the middleweight championship and defending it twice. Now that the promotion is gone, what are a few of your favorite memories from your time in the promotion?
LR: Strikeforce was awesome. Obviously going undefeated in Strikeforce was really cool. It was a family atmosphere. We were all tight with Scott Coker and everybody who worked at Strikeforce. Iím pretty tight with everybody at the UFC too, but to grow with Strikeforce was cool. I like the ďChallengerĒ events. Those were fun. Winning the belt was amazing for me, and beating Jacare was my biggest fight.
JB: Your UFC debut, against Vitor Belfort in Brazil, did not go as planned. What did you learn from that fight and how do you regard it now that some time has passed?
LR: It sucks. It was my UFC debut, in Brazil, against Vitor, so there was a lot riding on it. Itís hard to take too much away from that. I donít believe that Iíll ever get caught with a spinning heel-kick to the head again, just to put that out there. Itís hard to take. I did my homework pretty extensively on my opponent. I saw that he threw a wild spinning heel-kick once against Bisping. I didnít really think he had that in his repertoire. I was more focused on his hands and his boxing. I donít know. I was so focused on his hands that he caught me with a nice kick. I should have kept the pressure more. I relaxed too much. I tried to bait him in and started counterstriking when I should have kept him back. I made a mistake. But Iím excited about the future. It hasnít changed my goal.
JB: You are still one of the top middleweights in the world. There have been some other top fighters in your division who have gotten matched up lately, like Munoz and Bisping. Who do you want to fight next?
LR: I want a top fighter, whatever makes sense. They like to match up guys coming off losses with other guys coming off losses. Tim Boetsch is a top-ten opponent coming off a loss. I canít think of anyone else right now. Obviously thereís Belcher too, but I heard heís going up to 205.
The Bisping fight is definitely something I want in the future. Bisping went out of his way to talk shit on national TV and say that he got the better of me in training. Thatís obviously something that I want to clear up. I donít know who talks about practice really. I went down there and trained with him one time when I was just cruising through LA. I asked a good friend of mine down there if anybody was training, and he said, ďWell Bisping is here and sparring a lot.Ē So I ended up just showing up for a sparring day, and we went three rounds. He was in training camp for Brian Stann. I'm not going to go in-depth about what happened and this and that, but there are a lot of different circumstances in training. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on how these rounds go, but if he really thinks that he got the better of me, the guy is just delusional coming out and saying anything about it. A fight would go a little differently, I'm sure. I'm pretty positive about how our fight would go. I'd love to get that fight and do it for the fans. I think I could put on a great show for them.
I want to get back in there as soon as possible. October would be awesome, or November. I'm trying to talk to Joe and work something out soon. I definitely don't want to sit on this loss too long. I was at the fan expo, hearing all my fans like, "Sucks about that kick." I'm tired of hearing about that kick. I want to move on. I want to get to that next fight. I want to get that Vitor fight behind me. I'm excited to get in there.
JB: What was your reaction to the Silva-Weidman fight, and the way in which Silva lost?
LR: I don't know. I think Anderson went too far this time. He has clowned a lot in the past. At the top of the game, I don't care how good you are, you can't get out of control in there. Chris is a tough guy and he did what he had to do. I'm stoked for him. Chris is a friend of mine. It was pretty sweet. I'm not going to lie. It would have been a lot sweeter if I had got my bet in. I wasn't able to make my bet. I was hosting a party at a Fertitta casino and I tried to put in a $1500 sports bet, but I realized that a Fertitta casino doesn't take UFC bets there. I had $1500 on me, and I ran in there, and was like, "$1500 on Weidman." And they said, "We don't take UFC bets here." It was right before the Frankie Edgar fight. So I ran back and watched him win. I was bummed and stoked at the same time. I went out and met up with Chris and we had a good time afterward.
JB: Last question, Luke, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
LR: I'm just blessed to be able to do what I love to do. I've always loved competing, and there's something about fighting and the adrenaline rush that's unmatched in any other realm of life for me. It's the highest high you can possibly get. I'm just blessed to be able to do this. It's hard to put into words how I feel about it. I love what I'm doing and couldn't see myself doing anything else. I've done a lot of sports and a lot of jobs and I'm just happy to live the MMA life.