The final moments of Luke Rockhold’s UFC career won’t soon be forgotten.
Rockhold recently closed out his 15-year run in MMA with a gritty effort at UFC 278. While he ultimately lost a back-and-forth decision to Paulo Costa, the fight was a memorable one, with both men being forced to dig deep in the Salt Lake City elevation. But it was a sequence in the final minute that drew the most attention, as the former middleweight champion reversed into top position and vigorously used his own damaged face to smear blood all over Costa’s face, igniting social media and leaving Costa drenched in crimson.
Rockhold explained his thinking regarding the sequence on The MMA Hour.
“It was just a ‘f*** you, you’re a b****,’” Rockhold said. “I remember just talking back and forth and just, when somebody is point fighting and someone’s going for the kill, that’s the difference. And I felt like I was there to kill or be killed, and he was out there trying to get by. If more time exists — I rushed it, I f****** should’ve had that mount position and it would’ve been over. You know how that world works. I just rushed into that one and fell behind, and kept putting myself behind and having to dig myself back up.
“But I just felt like I was in there with a lesser man and I wanted to show him: ‘You’re my b****.’”
A former UFC and Strikeforce champion, Rockhold noted that the damage he suffered in his war of attrition with Costa appears to have been largely limited.
While he may have been a bloody mess throughout the bout, Rockhold said he doesn’t expect to require any post-fight surgery, regardless of how bad things may have seemed.
“Honestly, he broke my nose back into place,” Rockhold said. “He kept f****** [pissing me] off because he broke my nose and then he kept hitting me on my nose, and I could feel the f****** thing just crunching in my face, and I was like, ‘F***!’ That was really kind of pissing me off the most. It got me back into that fight. You’ve got to f****** piss me off, I guess.
“It was definitely off [beforehand], my nose was off, and I think he even took down some of the bump, you know, from the side angle,” Rockhold added. “So he straightened me up and he took off my ridge, and so I was like, ‘F***, I’ve got a Hollywood nose job.’”
Rockhold added that he doesn’t have any ill will for Costa now that the bout is over, though that doesn’t mean he and the Brazilian are going to be friendly anytime soon.
“There’s no animosity — I just don’t think much of him as a person,” Rockhold said. “And I think that fight, him getting his hand raised, tells the tale of who we are. I think people could see who I am, at least. I’ll take it. Whatever.”
All in all, Rockhold said he is proud of the way he managed to end his decorated career at UFC 278. Despite his three-fight losing streak, Rockhold proved something to himself with such a valiant performance coming off a layoff that stretched longer than three years.
His road since his 2015 title win over Chris Weidman has been littered with injuries, bad luck, and tough losses, but Rockhold nonetheless went out on his own terms.
“I appreciate myself and the effort I put into it, and f****** it just all came out,” Rockhold said. “I’ve dedicated and changed my life to not cutting any corners and doing this thing right and bringing back the dog, doing it for myself. You lose sight of that when you get to the top of the game. You lose sight of it, you start playing to society and like, what does society want? When you get to that mountaintop, you start playing like, ‘What does it take?’
“You already got to the top, you’ve got to be the king of the game, and then you’re like, ‘Now how do I navigate what society wants from me?’ I think that’s what a lot of people do — men lose track of themselves. So the digging it back up, the true self, digging up that old dog that I had before Weidman, it was that. It felt good. It felt good to find it.”