For quite some time now, Former UFC Champion Luke Rockhold has been looking to return to his weight class where he captured the title back in 2015. After many delays, a couple of call-outs, and a canceled fight with Sean StricklandRockhold is now set to meet former title challenger and top contender Paulo Costa. On paper, this fight looks to be interesting as both men were expected by many to be long-standing figures when it came to the title picture at 185 pounds. However, the two fighters will try to remain relevant with a win over one another as both are coming off of two-fight losing streaks. As it seems like fight fans have already waited a long time to see the # 4 ranked contender Costa vs the former champion in Rockhold, the lead-up has already been very unusual.
The Bizarre Circumstances Surrounding Rockhold vs Costa
Rockhold’s Sour Feelings Towards Costa
After recovering from back injuries that forced him to pull out of his scheduled fight with Sean Strickland that was scheduled to take place at UFC 268, Rockhold spoke to Submission Radio in February of 2022 stating that he had the intention of returning to middleweight after his failed light heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz. The opponent Rockhold desired to make a return against in June 2022 was Paulo Costa with less than flattering comments from the former champion. Rockhold made fun of the Brazilian fighter’s claim that his loss to champion Israel Adesanya was because he was drunk from drinking wine the night before the title bout and asking to change weight classes the same week he was meant to fight Marvin Vettori. In April, Rockhold also accused Costa of being on steroids on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani.
The Oddity of Paulo Costa
– Paulo Costa (Borrachinha) (@BorrachinhaMMA) June 6, 2022
Paulo Costa responded to Luke Rockhold’s comments by tweeting about the former champion’s recent failures in the cage and his lack of presence in it. . He went on further to say that Rockhold most likely thinks Brazilian fighters with a large stature are on PEDs referencing the former Strikeforce champions highlight reel loss to Vitor Belfort back in 2013. Borrachinha turned this into an unusual opportunity to talk about his parentage stating that Belfort is his father.
Reports came out that this fight had been agreed upon to take place on UFC 277 in Dallas, Texas. However, most recently Rockhold stated that the fight is being delayed again. He recounts the negotiations by saying that they tried to have the date be set for International Fight Week on July 2 and then July 30 in Dallas. However, he heard that Costa has been having multiple surgeries for what Rockhold stated as “cosmetic work” and that Costa will possibly come out looking different than what fight fans are used to seeing the Brazilian. Rockhold believes that all of these hold-ups are happening because Costa is feeling the pressure of having to win. Coming off two losses, Rockhold believes Costa wants to make sure he is fully prepared and has every advantage he can get going into the contest.
Rockhold’s last win was in 2017 against David Branch and he has only fought two times since then with both fights ending in KO losses. On the other hand, Paulo Costa has lost his last two fights and has not had his hand raised since 2019. Having one of the most unusual lead-ups to a fight, Costa vs Rockhold should be fireworks with former champion Rockhold having all of his wins with finishes and Costa only having one win going the distance. The reality is both men are in desperate need of a win. For Costa, a win will keep his contendership hopes afloat, while a win for Rockhold would immediately shoot the former champion back to the top of the division.