After some years on the sidelines former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold has expressed his intention to return to competition. A few months back he was booked to face Sean Strickland. However, that fell through after Rockhold suffered an injury.
Lately, Rockhold has announced that he wants to fight recent UFC middleweight title challenger Paulo Costa. Rockhold’s decision to target Costa hasn’t gone over well with one of his long-time friends and training partners.
Former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier spoke about his pal on his DC & RC podcast. During that show he expressed confusion as to why Rockhold, who hasn’t fought since being KO’d by Jan Blachowicz in 2019, would want to face someone like Costa right now.
“I don’t quite understand why he wants that fight so bad,” Cormier said (ht MMA Fighting). “I don’t know what Luke has seen in Paulo Costa over the course of his last few fights that makes him want that fight so much. Is it a winnable fight? Absolutely. But is there a lot of danger in that fight? Absolutely. Because we’ve seen Paulo Costa at his best and even when he saw him lose his last fight at 205 [pounds], he still looked pretty good, he was in the fight. So I don’t know what Luke saw in that fight that makes me want him. I support the guy, and I’ll support the guy until the wheels fall off.”
Back when Rockhold announced that he wanted to fight Costa, he told Submission Radio that part of the reason why was personal.
“It’s a guy that I don’t like,” he said. “And I think disrespects the sport and motivates me to f*cking correct it. It’s a guy that’s obviously top-ranked somehow, someway, when he can’t even make weight. So, typically if anything he should be ranked in the 205-pound division, right? I just don’t care for the guy. I tell you that, I don’t care for the guy. And I think it’s a fun fight. I think I can go show him the door...
“I don’t hate it, I don’t hate it. Obviously, it’s about selling tickets. And if you can go out there and put a statement and a staple on the fight on a big top-five fight, it speaks volumes. So, I like it. Going in there and making a statement can put me in a very nice little spot.”
Costa is currently on a two-fight losing skid. In October he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Marvin Vettori, which was at light heavyweight due to Costa inability to make 185 lbs. Prior to that he was TKO’d by UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Those two losses were the first defeats of the Brazilian’s pro career. Prior to those he was 13-0 and coming off wins over Yoel Romero, Uriah Hall and Johny Hendricks.
Rockhold is 2-3 in his last five fights. That run started with a TKO win over Chris Weidman in 2015 to claim the UFC middleweight title. He lost the belt in his first defence, when he was KO’d by Michael Bisping. Bisping, who Rockhold beat in 2014, had come in on short notice for the injured Weidman.
After the Bisping loss, Rockhold rebounded with a TKO win over David Branch. In 2018 he was KO’d by Yoel Romero and the loss to Blachowicz came at UFC 239, with Rockhold making his debut as a light heavyweight.