Rockhold was born in Santa Cruz, California the Bay Area city and hails from an athletic family. Growing up, Luke and his older brother pro-surfer Matt Rockhold, surfed their local breaks together. His father, Steve Rockhold was a professional basketball player in Europe and his mother was an avid tennis player. Luke started training in judo when he was 6 years old but quit upon turning ten. When he entered the seventh grade, he joined his school's wrestling team and stuck with the sport all through Soquel High School while taking jiu-jitsu classes.
Rockhold tried wrestling for a local community college but he felt the sport wasn't for him and instead took jiu-jitsu on full-time. He experimented more with jiu-jitsu and began to find this gentle art complimented his long flexible body and style. After winning a few BJJ tournaments, he decided to ponder into mixed martial arts. In 2006, a friend invited Rockhold to train at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, California. His raw talent and kicking displays immediately caught the eye of AKA head coach Javier Mendez, who touted Rockhold as a potential future champion.
In July 2007, Rockhold made his professional debut against Mike Martinez for the Melee on the Mountain promotion. Rockhold dominated the fight and won via armbar submission midway through the first round. He had his second fight for the promotion in November 2007. It was not as successful as the first as Rockhold was defeated by Tony Rubalcava via TKO.
Up and coming promotion, Strikeforce called and offered Rockhold a fight on their Strikeforce: Young Guns II card. Rockhold looked impressive in his debut, forcing his opponent to submit from punches.Impressed with his performance, Strikeforce decided to give him another fight. The second fight took place on the Strikeforce: Destruction card, where Rockhold won via submission. At Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz, Rockhold won his third consecutive fight. Rockhold was given a step up in competition when he fought Cory Devela at Strikeforce Challengers: Villasenor vs. Cyborg. even though he was the underdog going into the fight, He won that fight in just 30 seconds with his third rear-naked choke submission in a row.
At Strikeforce Challengers: Gurgel vs. Evangelista, Rockhold defeated The Ultimate Fighter 7 contestant, Jesse Taylor. The fight improved his record to 5–0 under the Strikeforce banner. In February 2010, Rockhold defeated another Ultimate Fighter 7 finalist, Paul Bradley, and won via TKO (knees to the body). The fight took place at Strikeforce Challengers: Kaufman vs. Hashi in San Jose, California. With the win, Rockhold hoped to fight against tougher and well-known fighters. In addition to the win, Rockhold was announced as a playable character for the EA Sports MMA video game. Rockhold was scheduled to fight Matt Lindland at Strikeforce: San Jose but pulled out a few weeks before the fight due to a shoulder injury. Rockhold was expected to face former title contender, Tim Kennedy, at Strikeforce 32 however, due to unknown reasons, Rockhold was removed from the bout.
After more than a year and a half hiatus from fighting due to injuries, Rockhold stepped into the cage to fight Strikeforce Middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza on September 10, 2011. He won the fight via unanimous decision to become the new Strikeforce Middleweight champion. For his first title defense, Rockhold faced Keith Jardine for the Middleweight Championship at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine on January 7, 2012. Rockhold won the fight via TKO in the first round.
In his second title defense, Rockhold faced Tim Kennedy in the main event of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy on July 14, 2012. During the weigh-ins for the bout on July 13, Rockhold came in a half-pound overweight. Rockhold cut the extra weight in the allotted two-hour limit. He successfully defended his title for a second time, winning the fight via unanimous decision.
For his third title defense, Rockhold was expected to face challenger Lorenz Larkin at Strikeforce: Cormier vs. Mir on November 3, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. However, Rockhold was forced to withdraw from the show due to injury and the event was later cancelled. The fight was rumored to be rescheduled on January 12, 2013. however, Rockhold never agreed upon the bout citing a lingering shoulder injury.
In January 2013, the Strikeforce organization was closed by its parent company Zuffa. A list of fighters scheduled to be brought over to the Ultimate Fighting Championship was released in mid-January and Rockhold was one of the fighters listed.
Rockhold faced perennial multi-divisional contender Vitor Belfort on May 18, 2013 in the main event at UFC on FX 8. He lost the fight via knockout in the first round, after being caught with a spinning heel kick to the face.
Rockhold was expected to face Tim Boetsch on October 19, 2013 at UFC 166. However, Rockhold was forced out of the bout citing a knee injury and was replaced by C.B. Dollaway. Rockhold faced Costas Philippou on January 15, 2014 at UFC Fight Night 35. He won via TKO in the first round after dropping Philippou with a kick to the body. The performance also earned Rockhold a $50,000 Knockout of the Night bonus. Rockhold eventually faced Tim Boetsch on April 26, 2014 at UFC 172. He won the fight via submission in the first round.
Rockhold faced Michael Bisping on November 8, 2014 at UFC Fight Night 55. He won the fight in the second round after dropping Bisping with a head kick and then applying a guillotine choke submission. The win earned Rockhold his first Performance of the Night bonus award.
On April 18, 2015, Rockhold faced former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida at UFC on Fox 15. Rockhold defeated Machida in a one-sided fight via submission in the second round. Rockhold also earned his second consecutive Performance of the Night bonus award.
Rockhold next faced Chris Weidman for the UFC Middleweight Championship on December 12, 2015 at UFC 194. Rockhold entered the bout with plenty of momentum being considered as one of the most devastating finishers in the division. Throughout the rounds, Weidman absorbed a ton of kicks from his opponent. In addition, Rockhold's counter punching game caught Weidman clean a number of times. In the third round, Rockhold capitalized on one of Weidman's weak wheel kicks by taking him down into the back mount and battering him until the end of the round. The fight was nearly called off if not for referee Herb Dean and the bell coming to Weidman's rescue. In the fourth round, Rockhold kept pressing with punches and secured a successful take-down and after passing into full mount, hammered away at Weidman. Before long, Herb Dean called a stop to the fight. Rockhold won the fight via TKO in the fourth round and became the 7th middleweight champion in UFC history, thereby ending Weidman's undefeated reign in the UFC. Both participants were awarded Fight of the Night honors.
Rockhold is known as one of the most well-rounded fighters to ever enter the Octagon, as well as arguably the best pure athlete to compete in the UFC. His signature striking techniques are a counter right hook, liver kick and question mark kick (which he usually throws off the front leg).
His ground game is also very effective as he holds a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and spars at American Kickboxing Academy with two much bigger wrestlers and UFC champions Daniel Cormier (LHW champion) and Cain Velasquez (former HW champion).