Surging UFC light heavyweight Khalil Rountree tries not to take in what fans say – unless, of course, they have a really good idea.
When Alex Pereira captured the UFC title at 205 pounds, adding his second octagon title in his seventh UFC fight, Rountree said his social media blew up. Fans liked the matchup.
The problem was, at that point, Rountree couldn’t make a very strong case for the fight. He needed to beef up his resume.
On Saturday, Rountree did just that by stopping one-time title challenger Anthony Smith, who fell prey to his preternatural power in the co-headliner of UFC Vegas 83. Rountree used his post-fight speech to call out Perreira, who knocked out ex-champ Jiri Prochazka to claim the light heavyweight title.
“I don’t think you guys have any record of me ever calling anybody out, but in my mind, knowing that if I beat Anthony Smith, that would get me into the top 10,” Rountree explained at the post-fight press conference for UFC Vegas 83. “And I know that the way the rankings kind of work, I have to be in the top 10 to even be worthy of fighting for a title.
“Say they put me at No. 10 [in the rankings] and not No. 8, where Anthony was. So from 9 up, in my opinion, and I think in the fans’ opinion, the most exciting fight would be me vs. Pereira. That’s just what I’ve seen from comments. After Alex’s win, I got flooded, people tagging me, and I think it makes sense.
“Two dynamic, powerful strikers. I don’t plan to shoot any takedowns. I don’t think I’ve ever shot for a takedown in my career. I don’t think he’s necessarily going to shoot for any takedowns, because the guy’s a warrior. So then you have two explosive, dynamic [fighters] in my mind, it just makes sense.”
Not everything the fans bring to Rountree gets the same consideration. In fact, the 33-year-old UFC vet tries to ignore most of it – the critics that accompany fame and notoriety are toxic to his mental health.
Even with a win over Smith, Rountree didn’t expect the tenor of his timeline to change much. Those that like him would continue to like him, and those who believed he didn’t show up for big fights would fill the air with negativity.
“I don’t think people will ever shut up, and I think after this fight, there’s going to be people that still don’t believe and that still have bad things to say,” Rountree said. “I’ve just come to acceptance of that. There’s going to be a large percentage of people that have just really s*** opinions.
“And the thing that sucks, too, and to be quite honest, obviously, it’s about me, so there can be a little bit of truth to it. Because there has been times in the past where I wasn’t consistent, and I didn’t show up for big fights, so if I read things like that, I’m like, man. And that’s why I don’t read things like that. I just keep doing what I’m doing. As much as I love the people, I have to create a huge separation, because I care about people too much. Sometimes, opinions, I can let them have too much effect on my.
“So the way that I accept it is that there will always be s*** opinions, and there’s always going to be, until the day I’m done fighting, there’s going to be a gigantic portion of MMA fans that just don’t believe in me, or don’t like me for whatever reason. I just have to be OK with that and continue to do what I do for myself and my loved ones.
“The ones that do support me and are cheering for me, man, I love them to death, because they could so easily be on the other end.”