Luke Rockhold is exactly the kind of fighter that the Strikeforce Challengers series is designed to find.
Saturday night, Rockhold (7-1) will step inside the cage to face off with middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov, seeking his first world title.
Rockhold trains with American Kickboxing Academy out of San Jose, California, which also features UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Strikeforce grand prix competitor Daniel Cormier and UFC contenders such as Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck.
So, while Rockhold may have only eight professional fights on his resume, he believes that battles that happen inside the AKA gym will help prepare him for Souza, an experienced fight that is 14-2 and has not lost since 2008.
“I have been putting in work with (Velasquez, Cormier, Koscheck). We spar a lot harder than most gyms and that’s where I get a lot of my experience,” said Rockhold during a recent press conference to promot the event. “What I lack in the cage, I gain from my teammates in the gym. I have been there almost five years now and I have grown a lot.
“I will be ready (Saturday night). You can expect fireworks.”
Rockhold was expected to make his big-card debut this past March against Tim Kennedy, but the fight was scrapped. He has not fought since a TKO victory in early 2010 over Paul Bradley, which moved his record in the Challengers events to 6-0.
“This is going to be a big change,” said Rockhold, on moving from the Challengers series to the main Strikeforce cards. “No doubt, the Challengers series has been good to me. It gave me a chance to get myself out there, get some exposure; it is what got me here. I am happy to be here and show what I can do on the big stage.”
Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov is set for Saturday night. FightLine.com will have you covered throughout the day with up-to-the-minute live reports.