Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is looking to return to the octagon later this summer, and has identified a suitable opponent, providing they hit their mark on the scale.
In an interview with Submission Radio, Rockhold revealed that he has targeted former title challenger Paulo Costa as a potential opponent, but only if the Brazilian meets his contractual obligations during fight week.
“It’s an option, it’s a very viable option,” he said.
“So, as long as terms are met, you know, we could have a dance.”
Rockhold did add a caveat to that, however, as he made clear he wouldn’t fight someone who didn’t take making weight seriously.
“I’m not here to fight f*****g cheaters,” he said.
“So, if the weight is met, unless too much wine is consumed, you never know. Weight has to be met, weight has to be met.”
Rockhold has good reason to make such a demand. The American, who dethroned Chris Weidman to capture the 185-pound title at UFC 194, lost his title in his first defense and hasn’t been able to reclaim championship gold since.
He had a chance to win the interim middleweight title at UFC 221 when he faced Yoel Romero on a bout that saw the Cuban stripped of the chance to win the belt after missing championship weight by 2.7 pounds on the scale.
Rockhold took the fight, and the title opportunity, regardless, but ended up being knocked out in the third round.
It’s something that was clearly uppermost in his mind when he explained his reasoning for deciding he won’t face someone who misses weight.
“There’s too many f*****g weak-ass people trying to get advantages upon the game,” he said.
“And I’ve lost – I’ve killed myself to make weight and do things right. And can’t say the same for the rest of them.
“I ain’t going to do that again. I ain’t going to do that again and fight a guy that misses weight purposely to gain an advantage. F**k no.
“There has to be fair play. We’re fighting. We’re not like playing anything else, we’re fighting. So, fair play is necessary. And at this stage of my career, I ain’t willing to f*****g risk anything but fair play. Because I do it right, I always have done it right, and it’s gotta be done right.”
Rockhold made clear he doesn’t have a great opinion of Costa, but said his dislike for the Brazilian’s past demeanor only serves to motivate him for a potential matchup.
“It’s a guy that I don’t like, and I think disrespects the sport and motivates me to f*****g correct it,” he said.
“It’s a guy that’s obviously top-ranked somehow, some way, 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 think you have a guy that f*****g wants to make excuses on wine and weight, and his liver is obviously affected, so let’s go… let’s go munch on it.
“There’s a distance game I can play. There’s a lot to it. I think the guy, he’s like a duck. He can f*****g swim, he can fly, but he can’t do anything great.”
The matchup against a proven power-puncher like Costa certainly offers dangers for Rockhold, who has been knocked out in each of his last three defeats. But the former champion said he sees the matchup as an opportunity to catapult himself right into the title picture at 185 pounds.
“Obviously it’s about selling tickets,” he said.
“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.”
Rockhold also had words for another middleweight contender, as he addressed Sean Strickland following his comments about fighting Rockhold in a parking lot.
“Yeah, I don’t have a lot of respect for the man or what that man says. I don’t think anybody does,” Rockhold admitted.
“And I don’t think he really knows what he’s talking about. When you’ve done that many drugs, I don’t know if things really come off clearly and if there’s much of a thought process to what he does.
“I think that’s why’s he so effective. It’s cause he doesn’t think, he doesn’t know. And he just fights with stupidity and it actually benefits him to a certain extent.”
Despite the backhanded compliment, Rockhold criticized Strickland’s most recent performance, a workmanlike decision victory over Jack Hermansson.
“I think he fought f*****g scared,” he stated.
“Honestly, I watched his last fight and I think he fought scared. He was like, you know, the pressure starts to get to you when you get to the top and you get to that potential, those title fights, and he didn’t let it go.
“He didn’t earn f*****g anybody’s respect. He didn’t put himself in that position where it’s like, ‘f**k, you know, it’s like, that’s the guy’. And he turns it on at the last second when he’s dominating a fight … he doesn’t have that f*****g mentality, that f*****g killer instinct. Killer instinct is what it is, and if you want to charge me in the parking lot, you better have the killer instinct, because I have it. And I’m not one to f**k with.”
He may have been critical of Strickland and Costa, but Rockhold had nothing but respect for the two men who were involved in the recent middleweight title fight at UFC 271 as he heaped praise on reigning champion Israel Adesanya and former champion Robert Whittaker.
“The boys are as good as they’ve come in the last decade. So, all the credit to both of them,” he said.
“It’s exciting. Obviously, you think about coming back and I’m getting that feel. So, it gets your blood pumping, makes you feel good. I like seeing the styles and how things are going in the sport.
“I think they’re the cream of the crop, for sure. There’s not many other people that can contend. Obviously Vettori’s a tough guy. I don’t know if he’s as fun to watch. I like the creativeness of those two. And that’s the s**t that gets me excited.”