ByDanny Acosta, writer at Creators.co
Danny Acosta

SAN JOSE, Calif.—A 20-minute drive from the world-renowned AKA gym, UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold lounged poolside in a suburban neighborhood at his training camp rental house.

He has access to a pool, a hot tub, a steam room, a gym, and other amenities to relax him between training to be the best middleweight in the world. He has a full-time nutritionist and chef so he eats fresh and clean whenever he wants. A full-time videographer documents everything for his social media. Rockhold also likes the fact he can turn on tape of the day’s training session if needed. Everything is done to increase his recovery and maintain his position as champ.

“Life’s good to be the champ,” Rockhold told Champions.co. “It’s good to be the king. I don’t take it for granted. I put in my work like no one else. I go out there and f--king push myself to the bitter end. I don’t go into any fight -- it doesn’t matter who I fight -- I don’t go in there with regrets. I don’t cut corners.”

In Rockhold’s estimation, other fighters do cut corners, whether that’s in lax training or relying on performance-enhancing drugs to get an edge. They don’t fully comprehend the scope of what it takes to be the best. The game is too complex for them to grasp or too rigorous to unlock their true potential. That’s where Rockhold believes he has the competition beat. The sad truth of the game sometimes is some guys just don’t “get it.”

Poolside, Rockhold surveyed where he’s at and admitted he’s figured it out.

Photo by Amy Kaplan
Photo by Amy Kaplan

“Life just gets easier. I’m not going to lie,” Rockhold said. “I want to cut out all the bulls--t. All the things that take energy out of your life within this timeframe. Make life as easy as possible, all the things that you can control, control. Of course in the training, that’s what you can’t control and that that’s what I work on everyday -- to eliminate the luck, focus on my technique, my skills.”

Rockhold certainly can’t control perception of himself with the public. He can be viewed as cocky. And that was before he rose through the UFC’s 185-pound ranks and affixed the championship to his waist. He countered: it’s not being cocky; it’s deep-rooted confidence. Cocky is fool’s pride. For the Santa Cruz, California-based fighter, it’s as simple as he earned it and he’s not shy to let people know what it takes to achieve such heights.

“Nothing was given to me. I earned everything,” the 31-year-old said. “I pushed harder. I did so much more than everybody. So much more time and effort and sacrifice.”

Unwavering self-belief for professional athletes, to the public, appears to border on delusion. That’s because they are not there for the genesis story where the protagonist struggles. They might hear about it in sound bites, but they don’t live through it. The fighting athlete’s self-belief is their most honed weapon because it’s the first and last one they must wield to have a worthwhile career. Especially in the beginning, it’s what carries them through until the financial resources arrive to support and make it all more real.

“This sport is so rough at times. You don’t get by. You win, you win, you don’t get anywhere,” Rockhold said. “These little paychecks only get you to the next fight. Then you can finally hit that one fight where you make it. You make it, now you can sit comfortably and live your life and not stress on getting to your next fight. Live the good life.”