In the lead up to UFC 278, Luke Rockhold railed against the UFC pay and bonus structures. Those who thought the former UFC middleweight champion wouldn’t have that same energy when he sat down at the dais for media day for Saturday’s ESPN+ streaming PPV fight card might have been surprised with what Rockhold had to say on Wednesday.
Rockhold opened his time with the assembled media by taking the branded Monster Energy Drink bottle from the table in front of him and moved it to the floor. He then caught everyone up on what he’d been up to in his life and fighting career since his last appearance in the UFC in 2019 (a light heavyweight loss to Jan Blachowicz). From there, Rockhold’s attitude went from intense to focused and fierce.
“I’m here. I’m fighting with the baddest motherf—er (Paulo Costa). I get through him, what’s next. If they (UFC) don’t give it to me, see ya. I don’t need shit. That’s why I can be the man I am today, in front of you, and say it like it is.”
With that, Rockhold turned his attention to a UFC-credentialed member of the Nelk Boys / Full Send and unloaded.
“I see all you guys around here right now, and I see this motherf—ker right here. You need to do your f—king homework. This f—king degenerate culture of Barstool Sports and Full Send, you gotta do your homework. You can’t approach ‘Chito’ (Marlon Vera) and give him a f—king Mexican mask and about his culture. His culture? He’s f—king Ecuadorian motherf—ker. Do your homework,” Rockhold said.
“You gave him a Mexican mask and said ‘This is your culture’ with wrestling, something along those lines. It was a disrespect to him, and where he’s from. Being a reporter is about doing your homework and really understanding. I know that you guys got carte blanche because Dana is f—king partnered with you guys right now, but f—king do your f—king homework and grow a better culture,” Rockhold added.
With his blood up, the next question Rockhold fielded kept him on 10.
“Over the past few weeks, you’ve been very vocal about fighter pay. Do you worry that the promotion will sort of be rooting against you?” Rockhold was asked.
“Root against me for what? What’re they gonna do?” Rockhold wondered. “Root against me, do your thing, dude. I’m here to fight. I’m not saying anything that’s not real. Everything I’m saying is justified and truthful. Just because I should be in a position of power before I say this s—t, f—k off, I got nothing to lose. I don’t need this business. I love fighting and I’m here to fight the best motherf—kers and this happens to be the place where it’s done.
“The company is f—king growing and they’re implementing other little stupidass bonuses. $5,000 here, $5,000 there … $50,000, man. We’ve been stuck in this motherf—ker for f—king 20 f—king years. I mean, back when ‘GSP’ (Georges St-Pierre) fought Jake (Shields), what was it, $100,000? F—king there was growing. When Lorenzo and Frank [Fertitta] were running the show, there was real grounding wires. These guys don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just letting Dana [White] run the show and suppress the sport. They need to grow, this whole f—king thing needs to grow together. Our lives are on the f—king line. Health care needs to be taken care of, our f—king health needs to be taken care of. Mine has not been taken care of.
“There’s a lot of things that need to f—king change. I’m just not going to be scared to say it.”
Rockhold’s outspokenness did not seem to go unnoticed by the UFC. Looking at the UFC’s YouTube page from media day, Rockhold’s appearance has yet to be uploaded by the promotion. The same cannot be said of the time Paulo Costa, Kamaru Usman, Leon Edwards, Jose Aldo and Merab Dvalishvili spent on the dais.
Keeping Rockhold’s appearance from the public seems to go against the credo of UFC president Dana White, who has been blunt about the promotion’s fighters having the ability to speak their minds on any subject without fear of reproach from the UFC.
“Listen, one of the things we’ve never done here at the UFC is stop people from expressing how they feel about certain things, inside or outside the octagon,” White said in 2020. “Even if it’s me. If it’s about me. Who’s more about free speech than we are?”
The UFC didn’t pull the plug on Rockhold when he was on the microphone at UFC 278 media day, but by not distributing his appearance on the promotion’s YouTube page, the UFC, at the very least, took part in a kind of “soft” censorship.
Luke Rockhold is taking a big chance in fighting a dangerous striker in Paulo Costa on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 278. No matter what the outcome of that fight, Rockhold is the big winner heading into UFC 278 fight night for his willingness to speak up on the biggest stage about issues that are important to him and other UFC fighters.
* Bloody Elbow reached out to UFC for comment on why the UFC has not uploaded Rockhold’s media day appearance to the UFC YouTube page. The promotion did not respond before publication. This story will be updated if we hear from the UFC.