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He might look like a laid-back Californian, but Luke Rockhold has proven to be one of the UFC’s most fearsome competitors – a top-ranked middleweight with a string of impressive victories and an eye on the title.
Since joining the UFC in 2013, Rockhold has scored wins over such notable fighters as Costas Philippou, Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping and Lyoto Machida, the last three by submission. He previously enjoyed a nine-fight win streak in Strikeforce, capturing that organization’s middleweight title and totaling the most submission wins in its history.
Rockhold grew up in an athletic family. His father, Steve, played professional basketball in Europe, and his older brother, Matt, is a well-known professional surfer. Luke surfed the breaks in his hometown of Santa Cruz, Calif., and also skateboarded, but he didn’t find his passion until he took up jiu-jitsu and decided to try mixed martial arts.
At the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Rockhold found his calling. AKA is the home gym of former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and current light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, and it’s where Rockhold began to work with his head coach, Javier Mendez.
Rockhold started his professional career 1-1 but then ran off nine wins in a row, including a unanimous decision over Ronaldo Souza for the Strikeforce middleweight belt in 2011. He defended his title twice, then transitioned to the UFC. But in his UFC debut, he was defeated in the first round by Vitor Belfort, who used a head kick and punches to end the fight.
Rockhold wasn’t deterred, winning his next four bouts. His 14-2 record includes eight submissions and four knockouts, and his winning streak has made him the UFC’s No. 1 contender.
“Nothing deters him from his quest to get where he wants,” Mendez, his head coach, told UFC.com. “Luke has goals in life, and he’s determined to attain them.”