Meet the MMA fighters of Team Toyo

Toyo Tires has a longstanding relationship with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes. In this post, we’ll take a look at the four fighters that represent Team Toyo, inside and outside the ring.

The natural continuation of a Chinese form of wrestling from 6,000 years ago, mixed martial arts (MMA) is a sport watched and loved by millions of people all over the world. Modern MMA, however, is closer to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and shoot wrestling, two combat sports that focus heavily on grappling. MMA superstars keep audiences glued to their TV sets, even when the events they’re taking part in don’t follow Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rules. This was the case with the McGregor v. Mayweather match, where only Conor McGregor was part of the UFC. Events like this generate millions of dollars from Pay Per View fees, ticket sales, merchandise, sponsorships, and so on. So it’s no surprise that many companies wish to support MMA fighters that either show potential or have already won the belt.

Riding the tide with Luke Rockhold

Two-time world champion Luke Skyler Rockhold was born in Santa Cruz, California on October 17, 1984. His passion for full-contact sports started at a very early age, as he began training in judo when he was 6, but dropped it at the age of 10. In the seventh grade he picked up wrestling and later on he even took Jiu-Jitsu classes. He made his debut on July 24, 2007, and is now associated with American Kickboxing Academy.

At 6’3” and 185 pounds, Rockhold is currently ranked #2 middleweight and #12 pound-for-pound. Rockhold mixed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Freestyle Wrestling to secure 16 victories. His three defeats are evidence that there’s always room for improvement for any MMA fighter out there, but 16-3-0 is still a very respectable fighting record. Most of his wins were by submission, followed by knockouts and decisions.

When not in the ring, Rockhold enjoys surfing and skateboarding, two activities that also help him stay in top shape at all times. On his personal Instagram account, Rockhold shares everything from personal moments, such as his mother’s wedding, to training photos. As if his fans needed any more proof that he’s always at the top of his game!

Kicking the can with Paige VanZant

Born in Dundee, Oregon on March 26, 1994, Paige “12 Gauge” VanZant spent her youth dancing ballet, jazz, and tap, rather than with full-contact sports. Later on, her interests shifted to outdoor activities such as riding dirt bikes, hunting, fishing, and shooting, which is why her father nicknamed her “12 Gauge.” It wasn’t until she moved to Sparks, Nevada that she started training in boxing and other martial arts. At the age of 18 she won an amateur fight that propelled her straight into professional MMA, where she debuted on June 30, 2012.

VanZant is 5’4” and weighs 125 pounds. For the first four years of her professional career she was signed to the strawweight division, but as of 2017, she is in the Team Alpha Male association and fights in the flyweight division. Over the past five years, she has amassed a fighting record of 7-3-0. Her highest quarterly ranking was #18 Women Strawweight, back in October 2016, but she is now ranked as #35 Women Strawweight. Given the recent change in division, we’ll have to wait for her next fight to see how she’ll rank next.

Why kicking the can? Because that’s what VanZant called the flying crane kick that she used to knock out Bec Rawlings. She may be as tough as it gets in the ring, but VanZant can clearly distinguish what happens there from real life. So much so that she even challenges her opponents to a dance-off at the weigh-in. At least that’s what happened before her fight against Michelle Waterson.

With 1.6 million followers, VanZant is the most popular Instagrammer on Team Toyo. Her biography, titled “RISE – Surviving the Fight of My Life,” goes on sale April 10, 2018, so if you admire her both as a sportswoman and a person, this is probably the best way to find out more about her.

Landing the Showtime kick with Anthony Pettis

Anthony Paul “Showtime” Pettis was born on January 27, 1987 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he continues to live to this day. He began taking Taekwondo and boxing lessons when he was just five years old. It wasn’t until college that he actually started training in wrestling. His current style of fighting mixes kickboxing, Taekwondo, and Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, he has a 3rd dan black belt in Taekwondo and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Such results couldn’t have been achieved without a lot of discipline, and his regimen before a fight is clear proof of that. In an interview on the Toyo Tires website, Pettis admits that he trains for three months before a fight. He starts the day with some MMA training between 10 am and noon, continues with strength and condition between 12:30 and 2 pm, and ends the day with MMA sparring, which he does from 7 pm to 9 pm. Now that’s dedication!

Part of the team Roufusport, Pettis is the former UFC Lightweight Champion and still competes in that division, even though in the past he was also signed to the Welterweight and Featherweight divisions. His commitment to his team is never-ending, especially since he claimed that he would never fight without Doug Roufus in his corner. As of October 2017, he is 5’10” tall and weighs 155 pounds. Out of the four fighters sponsored by Toyo Tires, Pettis is the most active, with a 20-6-0 fighting record.

Anthony Pettis

With so many fights behind him, Pettis must have had quite a few memorable moments, and he lists his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 53 victory in 2010 and the airborne switch kick he landed in that fight as two of the best. In fact, that kick was so spectacular that reporters had to find a name for it, so they dubbed it the “Showtime kick.”

The two things that Pettis enjoys the most when he’s not training or fighting are spending time with his daughter and running his bar, the Showtime Sports Bar in Milwaukee. He’s a casual driver, and splits his time behind the wheel between an Infiniti G37 and a Dodge Charger, all while dreaming of a Maserati.

Speeding up with Dominick Cruz

Mixed-martial artist Dominick Cruz signs MMA gloves
Mixed-martial artist Dominick Cruz signs MMA gloves

Best known as “The Dominator” in MMA circles, Dominick Cruz is a two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion. He was born on March 9, 1985 in Tucson, Arizona, but currently resides in San Diego, California. Calling Cruz a late bloomer wouldn’t be far-fetched, as he only picked up amateur wrestling while in high school. However, his performance following that period speaks volumes.

In terms of styles, this 5’8”, 135-pound Bantamweight MMA fighter combines Boxing, Wrestling, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Cruz is part of the Alliance MMA team and currently holds a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

If Pettis is the Team Toyo member with the most fights, Cruz is the one with the most wins, as he has a fighting record of 22-2-0. Unlike Pettis, whose camps are three months long, The Dominator typically only needs 10 weeks to train before a fight, a fact that might speak of his determination. What brings these Cruz and Pettis together, though, is their loyalty towards their teams. Cruz has also claimed that he wouldn’t trade Eric Del Fierro, his current trainer, for anyone else in the world. The two also share the experience of winning a WEC Championship – Cruz won the WEC Championship a year after Pettis, in 2011.

In his spare time, Cruz enjoys driving his Honda Civic SI fast, while dreaming of a Nissan GT-R. The Dominator also works as an MMA analyst for Fox Sports, but that’s hardly a surprise, given his first-hand knowledge and experience with this complex sport.

Which one of these fighters are you the most anxious to see in the ring soon? Who would you like to see them to fight against – and why? Tell us your opinions in the comments section below, but know that given their past performance, defeating any of them would indeed be a challenge!


Photos by: Mike Mozart,  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


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