It took UFC middleweight Paulo Costa a little while to comprehend what Luke Rockhold did in the final seconds of their UFC 278 fight. Once he figured it out, he shared the reaction many did to Rockhold smearing blood on his face.
“I didn’t see it in the moment of the fight,” Costa said at the post-fight press conference for Saturday’s pay-per-view event. “I just felt something on my face, but I was so worried about blocking his arms to not get elbowed in the face and punched. But I felt something.
“Now, when I saw, it’s a very disgusting scene. It’s a very weird moment.”
Costa survived the fight without taking any extra elbows. All he had to endure in those final seconds was some of Rockhold’s blood on his face and mouth. A unanimous decision by scores of 30-27 put him back in the win column after a pair of octagon setbacks, including a disastrous title outing against champ Israel Adesanya.
It also gave him a little highlight material he’d probably rather not have.
“I saw the moment where [Yoel] Romero kisses [Rockhold] after beating him, as well,” Costa said. “That was the weirdest moment that I had seen, but this beat that moment. I don’t know why Luke did that. Maybe he was so frustrated and angry because he was losing the fight. But I took a very long shower after the fight.”
Costa didn’t expect to even go to the third round in the first place. All the signs Rockhold gave him indicated he wouldn’t need judges to deliver the final verdict. Most of the audience was surprised when the former middleweight champ mustered the energy to curse him and sock him straight in the mouth before their awkward rendezvous in the final seconds. Yet Rockhold’s toughness was on full display after a three-year layoff that produced questions about his longevity in the sport.
“Yes, I thought when I saw him put his hands on his knees and show how tired he was, I thought maybe this guy won’t finish the last moment of the third round,” Costa said. “But some way, he put me there, and maybe I didn’t pressure him a lot. I let him survive a little bit, just getting points round by round.”
With lessons learned, Costa can move on to the next phase of his career, whatever that might be. The Brazilian isn’t sure whether or not he has another fight on his contract, though he certainly indicated Saturday’s fight would be his final obligation. UFC President Dana White said he wants to re-sign the one-time title challenger.
Next time, Costa will try to end up with some better highlight-reel footage, wherever he lands.