In a much-hyped Dec. 12 pay-for-view event in Las Vegas, Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight Luke Rockhold will fight champ Chris Weidman for the title using the mixed martial arts skills that have him on a four-win streak. Regardless of the outcome, Rockhold expects to recuperate by playing a lot of golf near his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. "It's nice to hit and not be hit back," he says.
To hear the fiercely competitive 6-foot-3, 185-pounder tell it, martial arts and golf have much in common, even if one is contested in an eight-sided cage (or Octagon, in UFC parlance) and the other in open spaces. To excel at either pursuit one must have core strength, balance, power—and the ability to stay focused.
'It's nice to hit and not be hit back.'
"Both are 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical," Rockhold says. "You can't afford to have a mental lapse."
Although he was exposed to golf as a kid, growing up in a sports-focused family with a father who played professional basketball, Rockhold, 31, didn't take it up seriously until a few years ago, when he could afford it. A southpaw when fighting, he plays golf right-handed. His 9.3 Index owes in part to the strength that enables him to crank a 3-iron as far as many of his friends hit their drivers, but he has a strong short game — except from bunkers. "It's the only time I don't enjoy being on the beach," says Rockhold, an avid surfer whose older brother, Matt, is a longtime surfing pro.
Rockhold also puts himself out there for others when it comes to charitable causes. Exposed to the organization by UFC sponsor American Ethanol, Rockhold has become an ardent supporter of Wounded Warrior events and is also active with UFC teammate Ryan Bader on behalf of the Hire Heroes USA Foundation.
"I've met so many real heroes," he says, "people whose service has given me the life I'm lucky to live on U.S. soil." In support of a very different cause, he plays annually in a South Dakota event that benefits Mission Greenhouse, which builds schools for girls in Africa.
"It feels good to help raise money for something that matters," he says.