Luke Rockhold set foot in the octagon for the last time at UFC 278 after an epic war with Paulo Costa that ended with the one-time middleweight champion dropping a unanimous decision and then announcing his retirement afterwards.
UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier, who counts Rockhold as one of his closest friends and teammates, called the action alongside Jon Anik and Joe Rogan but left his broadcast position to embrace the 37-year-old veteran as he walked out after the fight.
Afterwards, Cormier praised Rockhold for leaving everything he had in the cage in what was a fitting end to an incredibly accomplished career.
“My boy Luke Rockhold fights the final fight of his career and you know what? I can’t say I’m not disappointed,” Cormier said in a video posted to his YouTube channel. “Because skill wise he looked like he still has a ton left but his cardio, his body posture, the way that he looked in there tells me that it’s about time for my boy to walk away. So I ran over and I gave him a big hug.”
It was an emotional moment for Cormier as he watched Rockhold call it a career after they essentially grew up together in the training room at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.
As he spoke about Rockhold’s performance, Cormier showed off a photo that featured him alongside three of his teammates — all of whom held UFC titles but are now retired from competition.
“Hats off to my boy Luke,” Cormier said. “Guys, I hope that you guys enjoy this while we were there. I always talk about you’ve got to enjoy fighters while you have them. Because you never know when they’re going to be gone.
“I got this picture sent to me and now we’re all gone. You look at this photo and it’s Khabib Nurmagomedov, myself, Luke Rockhold and Cain Velasquez and if you look at the coach off to the right, to the left of Cain, he’s dead. Cain’s in jail. We’ve had some really, really great times at the American Kickboxing Academy and the final of the guys we called the four kings takes a bow in front of the fans tonight in what I believe was a fairytale ending for Luke Rockhold.”
While Rockhold deservedly got a lot of attention after a final memorable outing, Cormier also gave Costa a ton of credit for winning the fight in what played out as a grueling affair as both fighters dealt with exhaustion thanks to the high altitude in Salt Lake City.
Costa won the fight with identical 30-27 scorecards across the board as the one-time middleweight title challenger got back on track after dropping his last two bouts in a row.
“Let’s give our credit to Paulo Costa because he dealt with an absolute wildman in there,” Cormier said. “Luke was not the technical striker that you come to know. Luke was not that guy that was going to pick Paulo Costa apart. Luke was a madman and Paulo Costa not only stood in there but he beat him 30-27. Luke didn’t take a round off Paulo Costa.
“So for all the praise that we are going to heap on Luke Rockhold, Paulo Costa won the fight and he won the fight going away. He grappled very effectively. I could not believe how easily he was able to pass Luke’s guard and then mount Luke on multiple occasions. But it was also him being able to deal with the madness that was ensuing around him in regards to the fight itself.”