Luke Rockhold explains why he didn’t train at American Kickboxing Academy for upcoming fight

Luke Rockhold didn't train at his normal digs in San Jose, instead opting to work full time in Florida

Some fighters in the UFC are just synonymous with the teams and coaches they train under.

When you think of Georges St-Pierre it’s impossible not to attach him to head coach Firas Zahabi and the Tri-Star gym in Montreal. The same could be said of Conor McGregor and his longtime coach John Kavanagh and their team SBG in Ireland.

A third name that could easily make the same list is former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, who has spent his entire career working at the American Kickboxing Academy under the tutelage of coaches Bob Cook and Javier Mendez.

For his upcoming main event fight against David Branch this weekend in Pittsburgh, Rockhold hasn’t been seen anywhere near the San Jose facility and instead has become a stalwart at the recently founded Combat Club in Florida with head coach Henri Hooft leading the team.

While it’s not that unusual for fighters to seek outside help for an upcoming fight it was still strange to see Rockhold anywhere other than American Kickboxing Academy but he explained that the change of scenery was not only good for him — it was absolutely necessary.

“Things are good here and things are really slow back home,” Rockhold explained. “All my guys that are my size and bigger are not really available. I’m checking in back home with Bob Cook and D.C. [Daniel Cormier] with what the circumstances are. With Cain [Velasquez] injured and D.C. injured and a lot of the guys I used to play off aren’t around right now or in house.

“I’ve got to do what’s best for me right now and there’s a lot of big good guys here that I can play off. I’ve had a long standing relationship with Henri [Hooft] so it’s working right now.”

Hooft is now the head coach at the Combat Club but he’s also well known for his work over the years as one of the lead coaches at the Blackzilians team in Florida. Hooft is regarded as a phenomenal striking coach and the Combat Club has added a huge list of top ranked fighters working at the gym with Rockhold now included as one of them.

While Rockhold will absolutely represent American Kickboxing Academy in the fight, he also knows that getting a different look from a coach like Hooft or the training partners he’s been working with for this camp are all good for his performance.

Fighters will routinely mention how training with the same sparring partners year after year can lead to a lack of progression inside the cage and that’s what Rockhold wants to prevent with this move.

“You get complacent in your ways and a bit lazy,” Rockhold added. “A change of pace, a different vibe, a different scene, you get a different look. You can really understand different things about your game or things you may lack. Things you can really improve upon.

“It’s been really good for me. You really change your mindset and grow in so many ways.”

The other major factor in Rockhold’s decision to spend his entire training camp in Florida was also cutting out distractions that happen to him quite often at home in California.

According to Rockhold, he’s got a big construction project happening at his home right now as well and that could only lead to his attention being pulled away from training and preparation, which is really the only thing he wants to think about while getting ready to face David Branch on Saturday night.

“It’s nice not to have anything to distract me,” Rockhold said. “I have a house and a big construction project back home so I have a lot of things that can be very distracting and they have been in the last year. It’s good. It’s a fresh start.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.