Luke Rockhold said UFC 276 is the promotion’s proposed event for his return. All the former UFC middleweight champion needs now is an opponent for the July 2 card in Las Vegas.
Rockhold hopes it’s Paulo Costa, the one-time title challenger he’s repeatedly called out. But behind the scenes, he accuses the Brazilian fighter of “not contractually agreeing to the fight because of the weight issues that [the UFC is] placing on him.”
“So within all these rules, it’s like, alright, you don’t want to make weight, you want to make all these excuses — you’re just a f****** b**** when it comes down to it, and your steroids aren’t working anymore,” Rockhold said on The MMA Hour. “You got caught up, and you’re looking for a way out. He’s always needed assistance, in whatever way, it’s obvious. So f****** show up. Show up and show out.”
Rockhold doesn’t monitor Twitter, so he hasn’t seen the twists and turns of Costa’s account. Recently, the Brazilian has been campaigning to fight Derek Brunson, who mocked his documented weight problems by telling him to move up to heavyweight. But after Rockhold’s interview on Wednesday, Costa briefly shifted his attention.
Luke RockOLD Too old retired fighter out of the fucking ranking . Shut up fragile chin pic.twitter.com/dzmXulfdk2— Paulo Costa ( Borrachinha ) (@BorrachinhaMMA) April 6, 2022
After this shits Luke Rockhold said, I will reveal a curiosity . Vitor is my dad and it happened when him and my young and sexy mom gets in romance on Rio de Gerais, Brazil. Now everyone knows.— Paulo Costa ( Borrachinha ) (@BorrachinhaMMA) April 6, 2022
That’s what when he bring me to UFC the staff called me Baby Vitor. pic.twitter.com/0WhUeQFCAh
If Costa isn’t available, Rockhold said he’s open to fighting other middleweight standouts like Darren Till or Jack Hermansson. What he won’t do is fight someone who doesn’t live up to his standards. Costa is a matchup he likes precisely because his critics don’t like it, believing his chin is not strong enough to hold up to the type of punishment he might receive.
“On paper, maybe he’s a bad matchup for me — so people say,” Rockhold said. “I love defying odds and I love the opportunity. I feel better than I ever felt. I fought through four surgeries, maybe, this past time off, and I’m not coming back for no reason. Every fight I have is a title fight or a main event, or something of those sorts. So I need a big fight, and I need a good dance partner. I want to do this thing right.”
It’s been three years since Rockhold’s most recent octagon appearance, a knockout loss to now-former light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz that marked his third such stoppage in four outings. One of his more vocal critics, current UFC light heavyweight and commentator Anthony Smith, said in no uncertain terms that the former champ is no longer capable of fighting at a high level. But Rockhold attributes his setbacks to a series of injuries, not the concussions he sustained. Four surgeries later, he said he’s feeling as good as he’s ever felt. He denies any issues with his ability to take a punch.
“That’s what everyone thinks,” Rockhold said. “Let’s go. Sign the f****** fight. Why is Paulo Costa getting scared and not signing the contract? The contract’s there. It’s ready for you. Anthony Smith’s a f****** bum, hasn’t done anything in this f****** sport — contradicts himself soundly in that statement.
“I know that at my best, no one can beat me. I plan to finding that space. I’ve devoted everything to this thing. I’ve taken this time away, and I kind of lost that hunger, and it’s come back. I’m either going to go do it, or I’m going to go out on my shield. So this is my f****** last run at this thing, and I’m not leaving anything on the table.”