Khalil Rountree took focus from results, put it in showing 'the best version of myself' at UFC 236

ATLANTA – Some of those watching may have been surprised that, throughout the three-round battering inflicted by Khalil Rountree on Saturday, Eryk Anders just kept coming back.

But Rountree (8-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) certainly wasn’t. Going into their 205-pound meeting, which was part of UFC 236’s pay-per-view main card, Rountree was well aware that Anders (11-4 MMA, 3-4 UFC) wouldn’t be easy to put away. Which is why, even at times when it seemed like a finish seemed within his grasp, patience was key.

“Yeah, I wanted to knock him out, but I wasn’t hungry for it, you get what I’m saying?” Rountree told reporters, including MMA Junkie, backstage at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. “I dropped him, I saw that he wasn’t completely out, so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll just stand back up and hopefully it happens.’

“I’ve been in fights before where I’ll knock a guy down and be too hungry for the knockout. I feel like a lot of times, guys are a little bit too hungry for the knockout. We go in there and then we stand up and then we’re gassing. We see it all the time.”

Rountree’s mentality against a resilient foe was that “I can’t just go in there and knock out a tree.” So, instead of trying to chop it down with a single axe strike, he chipped away at its legs. The result of that can be seen in a video posted by Anders on his Instagram Stories Sunday morning, which was accompanied by a suiting gif.

Eryk Anders’ leg after Khalil Rountree fight (from Anders’ Instagram Stories)

Although Rountree didn’t get a finish, he walked away with three 30-26 scorecards in what was praised as his finest work yet in the UFC.

A big move was a factor behind his success. As Rountree had told MMA Junkie ahead of the bout, he relocated to Thailand after a quick knockout loss to Johnny Walker at UFC Fight Night 140 last November. Rountree went there motivated to improve his technique, but the experience ended up doing wonders for his spirit, as well.

The move also translated to a shift in Rountree’s mentality. Saturday, he said, was just the first step in its evolution.

“I realized that fighting in the UFC, it’s really hard to embrace it and grow without having to win, win, win,” Rountree said. “You have to win in order to stay here. And that’s a lot of pressure for someone who really loves fighting and wants to be the best and wants to be my best. But then I have this hanging over my head where it’s like, ‘But if you lose, you may not be able to have that shot again.’ That pressure, and dealing with ‘I could lose my job, I could lose all of these opportunities,’ just based off of a mistake, or maybe not feeling it that morning or something.

“There’s so many things that play into what we go through emotionally – or what I go through, I’m an emotional guy. So this week and today I was just like, ‘You know what? I’ve just got to do what I want to do and not think about if I’m going to get cut or win or lose. I’m going to display the best version of myself.’”

Rountree says he fell in love with Thailand and intends to “set my roots” there this year. The plan is to continue at Tiger Muay Thai, in Pukhet, where Rountree set up shop after an initial stint in Bangkok.

As for what this win means when it comes to his place in the UFC’s 205-pound division, Rountree doesn’t know. After all, it’s hard to gauge where one stands in such an ever-shifting scenario.

Thankfully, Rountree doesn’t really mind that.

“Whoever I have to fight and just continue to do good match-ups, until it’s time for me to fight for a title or something,” Rountree said. “But I want to continue to put on showcases like tonight. This was more my style. More what I’m working toward showing for my fans consistently. When my fans see me fight or anybody sees me fight, I want them to kind of know what to expect.

“Not this, like ‘Sometimes he kind of shows up like this.’ Tonight I showed, yes, I do have power. Yes, I can drop a person. Yes, I do have kicks. Takedown defense, everything that I – I just want to be consistent. So whoever it is in front of me, if we’re good match-up, I want it.”

To hear more from Rountree, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC 236, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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