Philippou on the belt, Rockhold, Weidman

The absence of longtime UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva at the top of the division has done nothing to change the mindset of Constantinos Philippou.

He never thought about the UFC title before Silva lost and still doesn’t now.

Philippou (12-3) is set to meet Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC Fight Night 35 on Wednesday, in Duluth, Ga. Clearly, Philippou would like to get his hand raised because “everybody likes to win,” but in terms of what it would do for his rank, he doesn't particularly care.

Based out of Long Island, N.Y., Philippou says he won’t lose a minute of sleep if he someday ends his career having never fought for a world title. He understands it’s a weird stance to have as a martial artist, but that’s just the way it is.

“That’s not me,” Philippou told ESPN.com. “I never saw myself in mixed martial arts and I never saw myself in the UFC.

“I don’t care about the fame or being called a champion. It’s just a means to an end right now. Get a little money to move on to the next step of my life. Fighting is not my life. It’s something I’m good at and it’s what I do right now.”

That doesn’t mean, Philippou says, he lacks motivation to improve. Since his last fight, a unanimous decision loss to Francis Carmont at UFC 165, Philippou has worked especially hard on defensive grappling.

He knew how to defend takedowns prior to that fight against Carmont, in which he was badly outwrestled, and chalks up a lot of what happened to an off night.

Still, he expects most of his opponents, even those dangerous on their feet, to try to take him down. So it's always going to be on him to stay upright.

“Carmont has fought many times before where he strikes, but he chose not to stand with me, “Philippou said. “I feel any opponent will try to take me down. I don’t think they will feel comfortable enough striking with me.

“Even if they are good on the feet, they won’t want to chance taking a shot from me.”

Rockhold (10-2) seems to be thinking along the same lines, based on some of his prefight comments. A former Strikeforce champion, Rockhold is deft in establishing the range on his kickboxing, but it sounds as if he watched the Carmont fight.

“If this fight hits the mat within three rounds, I just don’t see him surviving,” Rockhold said. “My ground game and top game are too good. He’s in big trouble if it ever touches the mat.”

Philippou isn’t too concerned about trying to figure out Rockhold’s game plan. Since Philippou isn’t actively pursuing a UFC title, one might think he’d request “fun” fights from the promotion and avoid opponents who rely heavily on wrestling.

He insists, however, that he doesn’t care one way or another. It’s not as though he’s avoiding a title shot, he’s just not looking for one. He’s interested in being in the Octagon on a regular basis and collecting a steady paycheck for it.

The 34-year-old former professional boxer does admit, however, that seeing former teammate Chris Weidman win the belt has enforced the idea in his head that a title shot might present itself someday.

Philippou left Weidman’s team -- coached by Ray Longo and Matt Serra -- early last year for personal reasons, although he says he did so on good terms.

Since then, he has stated numerous times he wouldn’t fight Weidman, even if it were for a belt. But since the fighter Philippou used to spend plenty of time with is now the UFC middleweight champ, he supposes it does make the belt feel attainable.

“I trained with Chris, so now I kind of know what it takes to be at the top,” Philippou said. “It was an unknown with Anderson Silva because everybody thought it was impossible for him to lose. Then Chris went and did it twice.

“I’ve been in the cage with Chris. It proved to me it’s not impossible [to win a UFC title]. It can happen. If Chris did it, maybe I can do it.”