Luke Rock­hold

The UFC mid­dleweight champ ex­plains how his ap­proach to fight­ing and fitness has reaped re­wards

Men's Fitness - - Contents - Words Matt Huckle Photography Danny Bird Styling Hay­ley Lawrence Groom­ing Laura Tucker

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


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.

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