Luke Rockhold impressed the masses in his decision loss to Paulo Costa last weekend at UFC 278 and it caught the attention of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith.
Despite the loss to Costa, Rockhold’s performance stood out among most on the card. This was his first fight since 2019 and the final one of his storied fighting career. He was downright exhausted at times, but pushed through the adversity to give Costa one of the toughest fights of his career and provided fight fans with a memorable pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event.
From his pre-fight beef with UFC president Dana White to his bloody performance in his first fight in over three years, Rockhold operated on all cylinders for his final UFC appearance. So when it came time to deliver his post-fight retirement speech Rockhold’s raw emotions spilled out on the microphone.
“It was raw. It was so raw,” Smith told Michael Bisping on the “Believe You Me” podcast. “Where was this f—king guy 10 years ago? He’d be a f—king superstar. I can get behind that guy. That guy who’s like, ‘I’m f—king old,’ I’m with you. I can get behind that guy.”
Smith, who has had his fair share of adversity throughout his own fighting career, was beyond impressed at how long Rockhold lasted inside of the Octagon. Rockhold is known for his cardio and ability to push pace, but as a 37-year-old former UFC champion coming off a long layoff and competing at altitude things didn’t go exactly as planned. Still, Rockhold kept pushing forward and delivered gusty offensive attacks from start to finish, despite ultimately coming up short on the scorecards.
“I see Luke Rockhold quitting, I’m watching him look for the door,” Smith said. “He’s looking for a way out and then decided not to take it, and that happened more than twice. It happened more than three times where he decided I don’t f—king want to be here anymore and on his way to quitting, turned around before he got there and battled his way back into it. Personally, Luke and I don’t like each other.
“But I can respect being exhausted, being in a really hard fight with a really heavy hitter, with a guy who’s walking you down, and you’re so f—king tired you can’t even breathe, and you got your nose splashed all the way across your face, you can barely stand up but still mustering the ability to battle back and stay in there and kind of give the fans a treat they didn’t deserve, because you should have been finished a long time ago.”
Rockhold certainly gained the respect of fight fans everywhere for his performance at UFC 278, but do you think he could have been a bigger superstar if he displayed this type of emotion throughout his career?
For complete UFC 278 results and coverage click here.