In the fight game, the term is “being called out.”
It happened nearly two years ago to Tim Boetsch when Luke Rockhold — who heretofore had never competed inside the octagon — said he wanted to fight Sunbury’s own “Barbarian.”
Boetsch was only too happy to comply, and now Rockhold is finally getting his wish.
The two middleweights will square off Saturday night in the Baltimore Arena at UFC 172. The Boetsch/Rockhold fight will appear on the main card, which means it will only be available on pay-per-view.
Rockhold (11-2), currently ranked fifth at 185 pounds in the UFC, is the former Strikeforce middleweight champion of the world. He lost his belt when the UFC bought out its biggest competitor and absorbed many of the fighters into its ranks. Rockhold is 1-1 since joining the UFC.
“He’s a great fighter,” Boetsch said. “He’s deserving of that (fifth) ranking. He’s a former ... world champion and all-around great athlete. A guy like Luke presents a lot of different problems. But I had a great training camp and I feel like I have the solution to those problems.”
Rockhold called Boetsch (17-6) out not long after “The Barbarian” defeated former Bellator world middleweight champion Hector Lombard in the latter’s UFC debut. In an interview soon after, Rockhold said, “He just beat the Bellator champion, let’s see if he can come beat the Strikeforce champion.”
The two were originally scheduled to meet last fall, but an injury to Rockhold forced a postponement. Boetsch instead fought CB Dollaway and beat him by split decision. That win snapped a two-fight losing streak for Boetsch and left him with an impressive 5-2 record as a UFC middleweight.
Should he put together another winning performance Saturday, Boetsch believes it will vault him right back into the upper echelon of the division.
“A win over Rockhold would certainly put me in the top five, maybe in the top three,” says Boetsch, who’s currently ranked 13th. “This is a huge fight and it has title-contention implications for the winner. It’s really big.”
The two fighters have very different backgrounds. Rockhold, who, at 29, is four years younger, grew up in Santa Cruz, where he learned to surf. His brother Matt was a professional surfer and their dad played professional basketball in Europe. Rockhold became involved in MMA after winning some jiu-jitsu tournaments.
Boetsch, meanwhile, grew up in Maine, where he developed a love for hunting and fishing. He entered MMA by way of collegiate wrestling.
Considering Rockhold’s devastating striking, Boetsch might need to use his wrestling prowess to pull out a victory. Rockhold’s sole win in the UFC came by a nasty kick to the body that took out Costas Philippou back in January. Philippou, a boxer from Cyprus who beat Boetsch in 2012, dropped instantly to the canvas and the fight was called off.
“Certainly that’s something I want to avoid,” Boetsch says. “(I can’t) let him land anything as clean as Philippou did. His kicks are one of his tools. ... We’ve been working in training camp on not opening yourself for those hard body shots because those are fight changers.”
Saturday’s fight will be Boetsch’s 14th in the UFC, but this will be his first UFC fight so close to home.
“I have a lot of friends and my wife (Jade) is coming down, and my in-laws,” Boetsch says. “It doesn’t add pressure. At this point, I’ve been competing in wrestling for so long, so there’s no added pressure.”
NOTES: Saturday’s card has a few Pennsylvania connections. In addition to Boetsch, light-heavyweight Phil Davis will meet Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in the co-main event. Davis is a Harrisburg High School grad who was a national champion in wrestling at Penn State. Also, Hollidaysburg native Charlie Brenneman will face Danny Castillo in a lightweight bout. Like Boetsch, Brenneman wrestled at Lock Haven. ... Rockhold trains at the famed American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. The gym boasts numerous stars, such as current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, unbeaten light-heavyweight Daniel Cormier, and rising lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. ... The main event of UFC 172 features a light-heavyweight championship bout between champion Jon Jones (19-1) and challenger Glover Teixeira (22-2).
In the fight game, the term is “being called out.”
SU's Hotaling earns preseason All-America honors
Susquehanna senior kicker Spencer Hotaling has been named a USA College Football Division III First-Team Preseason All-American.
Legion baseball: Line Mountain pulls out 12-11 victory at Region V tournament
Line Mountain manager Sam Strause exited the home dugout at Schute Field at Mansfield University looked at his home fans and said “I feel sick.”
Susquehanna's Hotaling named a preseason All-American in football
Susquehanna University senior placekicker Spencer Hotaling has been named a USA College Football Division III First-Team Preseason All-American. In addition, senior wide receiver Denzell Walker was named an Honorable Mention selection on offense.
Danville's Gronsky signs with Cardinals organization
It’s been a whirlwind past couple of weeks for Jake Gronsky, and it’s about to get headier for the Danville High grad.
Softball: Danville Bandits 18U squad qualifies for World Series
Most of them will be juniors or seniors when the fall scholastic year rolls around here in just a few short weeks, some are even in college already. But for a brief moment back on July 5, Danville Bandits manager Tony Fritz could’ve sworn he was staring at a bunch of Little League kids with the way his team was excited having earned a spot in the Stars and Stripes Salute 18U Tournament championship game.
Baseball: Crosscutters' Fultz no stranger to big leagues
He reached the pinnacle of Major League baseball in 2002: the World Series.
American Legion: Line Mountain tops Hughesville in Region V tournament
Kellan Masser wore a blank game face as he made his way off of the mound, cracking the slightest hint of a smile as his teammates leapt from the dugout to high-five him.
Motorsports: Dewease scores 300th career win in rain delayed Summer Nationals
There’s nothing like having the World of Outlaws come to town and breaking a winless streak.
American Legion: Line Mountain falls in opener of Region 5 tournament
Line Mountain manager Sam Strause was quick to note that Dickson City may be one of the top teams in the Region V Tournament.
Southern Columbia's Blake Marks named Daily Item Male Athlete of the Year
In an era of athletes focusing on one sport, Blake Marks is literally a man for all seasons.
Mount Carmel's Ali Varano named Daily Item's Female Athlete of the Year
While her junior year as a whole was successful, Mount Carmel’s Ali Varano wasn’t necessarily satisfied with how it turned out in the end, especially in track and field. The speedy Red Tornado was just shy of a qualifying time in the 300 hurdles and missed out on going to the PIAA Track & Field Championships by literally the slimmest of margins: .03 seconds.
Motorsports: Hodnett claims win at Williams Grove
Greg Hodnett has been struggling a lot at Williams Grove Speedway this season.
Baseball: Danville grad Gronsky adjusts to minor leagues
Friday was “Zombie Night” at Silver Cross Stadium in Joliet, Ill., which made for an interesting first home game for Slammers second baseman Jake Gronsky.
Baseball: Danville grad Gronsky makes pro baseball debut
Jake Gronsky stood at second base, just as he’d done hundreds of times before — yet never before — and gave in to a relieved smile.
Coetzee shoots 69 on 28th birthday at British Open
HOYLAKE, England — George Coetzee wasn’t planning much of a celebration for his 28th birthday. He did give himself a pretty nice gift — a 3-under 69 at the British Open.
Motorsports: Summer Nationals hit Williams Grove
Pa. Posse has its hands full with World of Outlaws
- More Sports Headlines
- SU's Hotaling earns preseason All-America honors