Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold has assessed the problems that have contributed to his poor run of form inside the Octagon.
Tonight, Rockhold will be making his much-awaited return to action. When he does, the Californian will be searching for his first victory in five years in what will be his first appearance since 2019.
Last time out, Rockhold was brutally knocked out by Jan Blachowicz in his light heavyweight debut. The result at UFC 239 marked the former 185-pound titleholder’s third KO setback in four outings, with a win over David Branch in 2017 repressing his only success since winning UFC gold in late 2015.
Ahead of his comeback, which will come against Brazilian powerhouse Paulo Costa at tonight’s UFC 278 pay-per-view event, Rockhold has explained the mindset change that left him suffering setbacks.
Rockhold: I Just Need To Be Myself
During a recent pre-fight interview with Helen Yee, Rockhold looked back on his 1-3 run between 2016 and 2019, assessing what he needs to improve from it in order to recapture the form that brought him to the top step in the UFC.
According to the 37-year-old, he wasn’t himself in his defeats to Michael Bisping, Yoel Romero, and Blachowicz. With that in mind, his sole goal is to return to the happy and relaxed state of mind that allows him to perform to the best of his capabilities.
“I’m not looking to do anything except just to be myself,” Rockhold said. “When I go outside myself, you see what happens, and I have sh*t performances. When I’m relaxed and I have confidence in myself, and I’m just happy and I got out there and have fun, that’s when you see the Luke Rockhold that everyone really came to love in the first place.
“These last few years, four or five years, it’s like, it’s not been me. And you can see the shift… Champions start slow. Champions read, they assess, and they attack. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, where I’ve been that guy and been über-confident in myself…. then I’ve been on the side where I’m like, ‘I need to impose my will.’ I’ve been doing it for the wrong reasons,” Rockhold continued. “That’s been me recently… For me, just being myself, relaxing, finding my openings.”
Rockhold will certainly need to find his feet in the cage quickly tonight, with imposing KO artist Costa no doubt set to search for a quick finish. With “Borrachinha” currently occupying the #6 spot in the rankings, an upset victory for Rockhold will put him right back into the title mix.
How do you think Luke Rockhold’s return right versus Paulo Costa will play out?