UFC middleweight contender Paulo Costa has confirmed that the UFC has placed an offer to fight former champion Luke Rockhold on the table, but it’s not something he has an appetite for.
While Costa currently sits inside the top five at 185 pounds, Rockhold hasn’t been in action in the weight class since a 2018 interim title defeat to Yoel Romero. Over a year later, the Californian debuted at light heavyweight, a foray into a new division that ended in a brutal knockout at the hands of Jan Blachowicz.
But last year, talk of the 37-year-old returning picked up, and he was eventually booked to face Sean Strickland at UFC 268 in November. After suffering a herniated disc, Rockhold was forced to withdraw.
The promotion now appears to be in search of a new comeback opponent for the former titleholder, with the door of “Borrachinha” seemingly where the matchmakers have arrived at.
In a recent interview with Ag Fight, Costa revealed the UFC has offered him a meeting inside the Octagon with Rockhold. While he’s yet to officially decline it, the Brazilian did describe a clash against the unranked veteran as the “worst-case scenario.”
“Luke Rockhold has shown an interest in fighting me, but he’s not ranked. I don’t know if that would be the best option,” said Costa. “That’s unfortunate because if he were ranked, that would be a great fight. I don’t think it’s too smart to fight someone who’s not ranked. The rankings are the foundation for everything. The UFC offered me this fight. They have the obligation to do so. It’s in the contract. They offered me Rockhold. I didn’t dismiss it entirely. I said I’d prefer to face someone ranked. Worst-case scenario, if there’s nobody else, we fight.” (h/t Bloody Elbow)
Costa’s remarks are certainly relatively tame considering the callouts Rockhold has been sending his way. In February, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion posted a training image, captioned with a comment mocking Costa’s post-title shot wine revelation.
He went on to address the post during an appearance on Submission Radio, admitting that he’s open to hunting for Costa’s ‘wine-affected liver’ this summer. With those comments, as well as accusations of steroid usage, fans would be forgiven for expecting a more hostile response from the #4 contender.
Costa went on to detail his reasoning for wanting to avoid the matchup. Citing Gilbert Burns’ recent loss to Khamzat Chimaev as evidence, the Brazilian asserted he’s not in the business of sacrificing his spot to those significantly below him on the UFC ladder.
“If he comes back to the rankings, then I’d take the fight. He’s popular, especially in America. That’s a pro. Him not being ranked is a big con,” admitted Costa. “Let me give you an example. Gilbert Burns was the number-two guy and he gave Chimaev an opportunity. He lost. Now where is Burns going? Which spot? Is he going to drop many spots? He’s already down to number four. He might drop more. So fighting an unranked guy is even worse.”
UFC Seemingly Gives In To Costa’s MW Stance
Interestingly, the UFC’s offer to Costa appears to demonstrate that Dana White and his promotion have walked back plans to force the former title challenger to transition to light heavyweight permanently.
In his last outing, “Borrachinha” showed up to UFC Vegas 41 fight week significantly overweight and unable to make the 186-pound non-title fight middleweight limit for his main event bout with Marvin Vettori.
After failing to cut down to the initially agreed 195-pound catchweight, the headliner became a light heavyweight contest. After the fight, a host of fighters and fans slammed the Brazilian’s pre-fight conduct and lack of remorse.
In response to the incident, White claimed Costa would be made to compete at 205 pounds moving forward. But given Rockhold’s apparent focus on the middleweight division, it stands to reason that the offer sent Costa’s way is for a 185-pound outing.
Earlier this year, Wallid Ismail insisted that his man would return to middleweight. Unless Rockhold has had a change of heart and decided to pursue another crack at success at light heavyweight, it appears the manager was right.
Costa has consistently called out Derek Brunson ever since initial target Sean Strickland was booked to fight Alex Pereira. With that in mind, it appears “Borrachinha” is targeting fighters around him in the rankings, likely leaving Rockhold out in the cold for the time being.
Would you like to see Paulo Costa face Luke Rockhold at middleweight?