American mixed martial artist Luke Rockhold may strike you as the ultimate fighting machine. And without a doubt, he is. But beyond the ring—Rockhold was crowned UFC middleweight champion in 2015—Rockhold embodies both style and humility. Blood, sweat and gear aside.
As the new face of Ralph Lauren’s Polo Blue Ultra Blue fragrance, Rockhold is polished and styled to perfection. And it’s a side of the champion that he says he’s excited to share. “Look good, feel good, fight good,” he says. “As I’ve graduated in the race of fighting, so have I graduated with my style. It has to keep up the same pace as my level of fighting.” The ocean-inspired campaign has also brought a favorite pastime of Rockhold’s to the forefront. During his childhood in Santa Cruz, California, surfing was a Rockhold family tradition (his older brother is professional surfer Matt Rockhold). “Surfing taught me how to move my body in ways I could have never learned from my training—it requires balance and fluidity,” he says. Today it’s still one of the many ways Rockhold leads an active lifestyle, alongside golfing and really, anything competitive. “I’m a very competitive person so if I’m not challenging myself, it’s usually not for me.”
Ultimately for Rockhold, mixed martial arts became the competition most worth fighting for. “MMA is really a mental activity as much as it is a physical one,” he says. “I’ve carried the discipline, respect and honor that were taught to me at a young age from my practice.” Hailing from the Bay Area, Rockhold trained in jiu jitsu, wrestling and judo before he eventually found his way to mixed martial arts. His first MMA competition was all it took to hook him for life. “[It was] my a-ha moment,” he says. “I knew then and there that was what I was going to do and that I would become the best in the world.”
However, it’s one thing to say you’ll be the best, and it’s another to actually put in the work to get there. Therefore, he says, he believes in the “first in last out” method. But aside from his punishing work ethic, there’s also the nerves factor—something Rockhold uses to his advantage. In fact, for someone so confident about his game, what may surprise fans most is Rockhold’s reliance on nervousness—without which, he says, he becomes vulnerable to the possibility of loss. “I wasn’t nervous when defending my title against [Michael] Bisping—and I think that was part of the problem,” Rockhold says of the moment his opponent beat him to became the first British champion in UFC history—one of MMA’s biggest upsets last year. For the future, he says, “a little bit of that nervous energy helps keep me focused.”