by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Expectations continue to rise for Strikeforce middleweight Luke Rockhold, and he continues to rise with them.
Over the course of the past year, Rockhold has steadily increased the level of opposition he’s faced and has come through in spectacular fashion each time.
Most recently Rockhold dispatched Corey Devela in just 30 seconds at the Strikeforce Challengers Series event in June. Now he has his eyes set on doing the same to Team Quest standout Jesse Taylor on Nov. 6 in Fresno.
“I try to block out the pressure and focus on what I need to do,” said Rockhold to MMAWeekly.com of the increasingly high expectations placed on him.
“I think as long as I go in there and do what I’ve been training to do, I think it might not (go as quickly as the Devela fight), but still be pretty exciting.”
Rockhold recently relocated from his native Santa Cruz, Calif., to San Jose, Calif., to be closer to his training base at the American Kickboxing Academy.
It’s a move that Rockhold claims has already begun to pay huge dividends.
“It’s a lot easier without the commute in the middle of my day, and I have more energy to get back in the gym and get my second workout in,” he stated. “I’m just busting ass and feeling confident right now.
“My stand-up and everything else is coming together. I feel like I’ll be improving in every fight by leaps and bounds.”
Turning his attention towards Jesse Taylor, Rockhold admits this could be a fight to test many aspects of his game to the fullest.
“He’s one of those little strong guys who’s tough to get below, tough to isolate like limbs and stuff,” said Rockhold. “He has the potential to frustrate me if I get caught on the bottom – that’s where I don’t want to be.
“I’ve been working with some of the best wrestlers out there like (Josh) Koscheck and (Jon) Fitch, working on my wrestling defense and takedowns. I’d potentially like to keep this one on the feet, and if anything stay on top (on the ground) and do damage.”
The temptation is always to push a rising star too far too fast to capitalize on his successes, but with Strikeforce, Rockhold feels he’s making a slow, natural progression that will ultimately pay off far greater than instantaneous exposure.
“They are building me step by step and this is a perfect step for me,” he commented. “Jesse is a really good opponent, and I’m happy to be where I’m at.
“I wouldn’t like to jump too fast, and to tell you the truth I think it’s a perfect position for me, and I just want to capitalize on what I’m given.”
From the undercard to opening bout on a television broadcast to a featured match on Showtime, Rockhold is working his way up one step at a time, ensuring a brighter future for one of the sport’s premier up and coming fighters.
“I’d like to thank my sponsors: Dethroned, AKA MMA, Full Tilt Poker, Score Clinic and Santa Cruz Skate Shop & Surf Shop,” he concluded. “Come check this fight out, it’s going to be very exciting.
“I don’t see it going the distance. I’m going to keep it fast-paced the entire time.”