Rockhold was interviewed by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto about his upcoming match against Paulo Costa. The two are set to compete at UFC 277 on July 30. The summer clash will be Rockhold’s first fight since his knockout loss to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239 in July 2019.
The former 185-pound champion is dropping back down to the weight class he once ruled, and should he get his hand raised over the No. 4-ranked contender, he’ll be right back in the top-contender mix.
But, according to Rockhold, he was open to fighting Chimaev instead of Costa. And he told Okamoto that it was “Borz” who turned down the contest. “Khamzat didn’t take the fight, by the way, we were set to fight,” Rockhold said via Middle Easy. “He wanted to stay at 170. I think that was a wise move for him at this point.”
Chimaev currently sits as the No. 3-ranked UFC welterweight, a spot he was elevated to after earning a unanimous decision over Gilbert Burns. They fought at UFC 273 on April 9 and after three brutal, back-and-forth rounds, the judges awarded the fight to Borz.
Chimaev (11-0) has fought five times in the UFC, and two of his bouts were at middleweight.
Rockhold Feels More Motivated to Fight Costa Compared to Fighting Sean Strickland
Rockhold was originally set for a comeback in November at UFC 268, however an injury forced him out of his fight with Sean Strickland.
According to Rockhold, he feels much more motivated to fight Costa, a former 185-pound title challenger, as opposed to Strickland.
“[The challenge] gets me up in the morning,” Rockhold said. “I’m not here to fight bums. I’m here to fight people that have proven their worth, that gets me excited. I don’t get excited to get up and fight f****** idiots. Honestly, the Sean Strickland thing wasn’t that motivating. Paulo, he’s tested himself against the best and he’s just a f****** piece of s***, he’s a meathead. So there’s certain parts about him that just get me excited to go correct the situation and get back on top. I want people that motivate me.”
Rockhold Says He Feels ‘F****** Great,’ Says He Still Has ‘It’
At one point, Rockhold (16-5), was considered the best middleweight on earth. He won the UFC belt by dethroning Chris Weidman via TKO in December 2015, and he appeared ready to rule the division for years.
However, he dropped the middleweight strap to Michael Bisping in his next fight. He bounced back against David Branch over a year later, but then two KO losses followed. He was taken out by Yoel Romero in 2018 and Blachowicz in 2019.
“Honestly, I didn’t know where my body was going to be,” Rockhold said via MMA Junkie. “I’ve taken the last six weeks. I haven’t drank a drop of alcohol. I’ve been training every day. I’ve been putting my body and my mind where it needs to be.
“I’ve been putting myself into the hardest situations with the best fighters, like camp, and making sure I still have it. I still got it. I feel f****** great. I’m in that position now where I’m ready to fight.”