It’s been more than three years since Luke Rockhold stepped inside the Octagon. On Saturday night, that streak ends as the former UFC middleweight champion returns to action in the UFC 278 co-main event. On that night, Rockhold will face No. 5 ranked contender Paulo Costa.
Rockhold last competed inside the Octagon at UFC 239 against former light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. Rockhold was defeated via a second-round knockout. Losing back-to-back fights, Rockhold stepped away from competition. Now the California native is back and ready to climb back into the top ten should he walk out with a ‘W’ on Saturday night.
Ahead of his co-main event feature, Luke Rockhold appeared on ‘The MMA Hour’ with Ariel Helwani. During the discussion, Rockhold was asked how he feels ahead of his long-awaited UFC return.
“It feels good. It really does, you know. People like me, we thrive off this and these nerves and this test in life. It’s good to be back, you know. I’m not here chasing this one to the end. I’m doing this because I want to, not because I need to. There’s a sense of relaxation that I have in this time and I’m just ready to fight.
“It’s been a long time and the preparation, it’s all coming to an end and I just want to go out there and do myself justice. I don’t think I’ve done that in the last 5-6 years since I won the title. You can see the difference in my fight style. It was forced. I was reaching and pulling from places that wasn’t me.”
Luke Rockhold Says The UFC Turned Him ‘Sour’ Resulting in His Exit From The Promotion
Luke Rockhold also addresses issues with the company behind the scenes that cause him to fight with hate instead of with skill. The result was a former world champion underperforming until ultimately walking away in 2019.
“After losing the title, you get disrespected. This is a mafia. You know how it is in the UFC. Dana ripped you (Ariel) from my seat that night and ripped you out of the UFC for doing your job. And there’s no rhyme or reason in this game and when you lose your leverage, these people try to step on you. And then you fight back. It’s a constant fight. It’s annoying. It’s f*cking sick. It’s disgusting and it needs to change.”
The incident with Ariel Helwani occurred at UFC 199 when Michael Bisping captured the UFC middleweight title from Luke Rockhold. That evening, Helwani broke the news that former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was returning to the Octagon. Fuming that Helwani spoiled the surprise, Dana White banned Helwani from the UFC.
“I’m not scared to say it. Everyone’s like, on ‘DC & RC’ yesterday saying, ‘why now? Why speak up on fighter pay. Why did you do this now? You’re just coming back.’ Everything I’m saying is right. Everything I’m saying is right. Everything I’m saying is true. I’m not gonna bite my lip and not tell it like it is. This is exactly how it is and it turned me sour.”
The former middleweight king faces a tough test in his return bout against Paulo Costa. While it appears that Luke Rockhold’s issues with the UFC are still alive and well, the fighter has found a renewed peace within himself. He looks to parlay that into a top-ten-worthy performance at UFC 278 on Saturday night.