The UFC middleweight champ explains how his approach to fighting and fitness has reaped rewards
The man I’m talking to could choke me unconscious with frightening efficiency. Nine of Luke Rockhold’s 15 pro MMA wins have come from forcing his opponents – some of the world’sw toughest men – to submit to his array of vicious techniques designed to snap limbs or put you to sleep. Even if you stand up to him you’re not safe. Of his other six victories, four have been knockouts, including the fight in December where he wrested the UFC’s middleweight championship from Chris Weidman. By the time the referee stopped the fight in the third round, Weidman’s face was a gruesome mask of blood. He had the look of a man who’d been set upon in an alley rather than an experienced fighter in his own right.
It might seem out of character, then, to find the 31-year-old Rockhold talking about the best gifts for Mother’s Day. For a man so practised in physical violence, he’s downright charming.
In fact, in many ways Rockhold doesn’t fit the mould of the typical fighter. He doesn’t share the over-exuberance of the showmen, and he’s engaging on subjects other than martial arts. Naturally, he has the work ethic and supreme self-confidence you need to get to the top of any sport, but beyond that, Rockhold is a rule-breaker.
The last time MF spoke to Rockhold was in 2014, when he was still making his way up through the ranks. In our feature we pegged him to be the middleweight champion, and as he’s yet to thank MF publicly for the support, we can’t resist bringing it up with him… 60 | June 2016
“I WANT TO LIVE THE GOOD LIFE. I WANT NICE HOUSES, PLURAL”
We Picking feel me like to thanksbe champ are wasin order…a good move. Someone knows their stuff. We’ll take that as a sign of undying gratitude. Don’t mention it. Anyway, you’ve said in the past that London is one of your favourite cities to visit. What stands out for you? It’s just a beautiful city. There’s so much detail in the architecture and history that’s amazing to see. It puts every city in America to shame. I mean, there are buildings here that are older than our whole country. Ah, so we’ve got ourselves an architecture buff? Well… it’s also fun here. It’s a good vibe. Everyone gets off work at five o’clock and just heads into Covent Garden to start drinking. It’s like clockwork. It’s definitely different to America – we don’t all congregate at a certain time. I love it. That went from buildings to booze pretty quickly… I like to have a beer or two – a couple drinks here and there on my off time. Would you say your off time is something you’re careful to protect? Yeah, I need a month or so to decompress after a fight but I’m more conscious about what I do with that time than I used to be. In the past, I’d do extreme things without thinking about it, but now I ask myself if it’s a good idea. I kind of avoid snowboarding because if you make a mistake on a big cliff, well… that might just be it.
MMA has three aspects: standup (punching and kicking), wrestling (where you slam your opponent to the floor) and the ground game. Fighting on the floor might sound less spectacular, but it’s where guys get choked unconscious, have their limbs snapped or sometimes both.
The sport is built on respect. When two athletes have left everything inside the cage, they know it’s honourable to shake the other’s hand and say “great job”. Or hug.