It's been 18 months since Mixed Martial Arts contender Luke Rockhold fought, after being knocked out of the ring by a series of injuries. He put up an astounding 7-1 record, knocking out most of his opponents in less than two minutes.
But then, he was down for the count. He strained a shoulder in training and the healing was slow.
However, Saturday night, he goes for the big one: a title fight tonight against middleweight champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov in Cincinnati.
It will be aired on Showtime at 10:30 p.m. (time delayed). You can find out more about the action at Strikeforce's home page, and see a weigh-in.
Patch caught up with the Soquel High grad before the fight.
Luke Rockhold came from an athletic family: his brother Matt Rockhold is a pro surfer; his father, Steve Rockhold, was a professional basketball player in Europe and with the Golden State Warriors.
Luke was training in Judo at the age of 6. By the time he was in seventh grade he was on the school wrestling team and all through high school Luke remained on the wrestling team and trained in Jiu Jitsu.
Jiu Jitsu became his passion as continued to train under Dave Camarillo and he won a handful of Jiu Jitsu events. As Luke progressed he began to train at AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) it was at this MMA training facility where Rockhold would establish himself.
Mixed Martial Arts was beginning to catch on and Luke took notice. So did Strikeforce. The MMA Promotion Company founded in 2006 by Scott Coker scheduled Rockhold’s first fight in 2007 where he defeated Josh Neal in a flurry of punches to submission in the first round.
He lost his second fight, which was the only loss of his career and then he stomped through his next five Strikeforce fights defeating all of his opponents solidly within the first round. He crushed many of them in less than two minutes, with solid strikes and crushing choke holds.
With his MMA record standing at 7-1, the Santa Cruz local appeared unstoppable and indestructible. But, disappointingly, Rockhold had to drop out of his two following bouts due to injuries sustained from training.
I had a chance to catch up with Luke as he was in Ohio getting ready for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship fight. After some phone tag we linked up.
Danny Keith: Yeah Luke, how you doing kid?
Luke Rockhold: Just getting ready to do this, training a little but just mentally relaxed. I am focused and ready.
Danny Keith: So lets talk about it, what are you getting ready for?
Luke Rockhold: I am in Cincinnati, Ohio getting ready to fight for the Middleweight Championship title against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
Danny Keith: Doesn’t his nickname mean “Alligator”? I mean a guy with a nickname like that how do you train for him?
Luke Rockhold: (In his best Louisiana accent from Swamp People) I been hunting Alligator. No really I respect Jacare, he is a great fighter. However, I have been training with some of the best over at AKA, I am not going to give away my plans but lets just say Jacare is going to have his hands full.
Danny Keith: How does it feel to represent Santa Cruz?
Luke Rockhold: It feels insane, I mean Santa Cruz is a hotbed for talent, baseball, football, surfing, skating and now MMA.
Danny Keith: You are a mentor to allot of kids here and they really look up to you, how does that feel?
Luke Rockhold: I realize that to be a champion I have to live like one. With that in mind I want to be a great role model for kids, keep them on the straight. There are a lot of distractions for young guns these days. If my career can inspire them to train, get some structure and discipline,then I feel like I have accomplished something.
Danny Keith: You have been out of the ring for a while, how does that affect you and how do you prepare for a fight after 18 months?
Luke Rockhold: First off I have a great camp at AKA and we train hard everyday. We have some of the best fighters in MMA right now so its like a title fight every week. However when you get the opportunity of a lifetime, it definitely kicks it up a couple notches. I had some setbacks from training too hard, but now is the time.
Danny Keith: I know all of boys in Santa Cruz are going to be packing in to Motiv to watch the fight, are there any thanks you’s or sponsor plugs you want to throw?
Luke Rockhold: Obviously all my friends and family that have supported me along the way, American Kickboxing Academy and my camp they are the best in the business, Spectrum Health Center and of course my SC Family over at Santa Cruz Skate and Surf Shop. SC represent!
I expect nothing but the best from Luke as he will pour 110% once he steps into that ring against Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
Luke Rockhold goes up against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza tonight on Showtime in Strikeforce’s World Grand Prix click here for details or venture down to downtown Santa Cruz at Motiv 7 p.m. to watch the fight live.