Luke Rockhold’s swan song at UFC 278 was a proper sendoff for one of the great middleweights of the era.
Rockhold hung up his four-ounce gloves in August after a rollicking back-and-forth brawl with Paulo Costa. While he ultimately lost the bout via decision, the heart and grit Rockhold showed was a fitting goodbye after a 15-year career littered with memorable moments. But if he had to narrow those moments down to his three favorites, which would he pick?
The former UFC champion reflected on the question on a recent episode of The MMA Hour.
“Those moments that define you as a man, I think those are the biggest moments — and there’s three that really stick out,” Rockhold said. “For me, it’s my fight with [Ronaldo] ‘Jacare’ [Souza]. It made me whole. It made me a man. That gave me relevance in life. And then the stages of the game, there’s always goals within goals, and then there was the fight with [Chris] Weidman. Doing that and achieving that height, you know?
“And then coming back and doing this [against Costa], proving it to myself that — where I needed to go after losing track of myself, letting society kind of direct what I should want, what I thought I want, and then having to come back down to reality and figure out what the f*** I want really. … I had to lose myself to come back, and now we’re going to f****** show people, show people the truth. That’s how I saw it.”
Despite the three-fight slump that ended his career, Rockhold, 37, was an elite middleweight for the majority of his MMA run. The AKA product captured titles in both Strikeforce and the UFC, and picked up big wins along the way over Weidman, Souza, Lyoto Machida, Michael Bisping, Tim Kennedy, David Branch, and more. He did all of it despite being forced to overcome multiple serious injuries and setbacks in his career.
The journey gave Rockhold a wealth of experience regarding the highs and lows of the game, as well as the inner workings of the UFC machine. And if Rockhold has one piece of advice to give to the next generation, it’s to choose carefully who represents you.
“Get a manager that’s not connected to the game, that’s not part of the f****** system,” Rockhold said. “… There’s a f****** few managers that work for the UFC. We all know who you are. You’re f****** the sport up. And the kids that follow them, you’re all f****** it up.
“How the f*** are they going to work for you when it comes down to it? When you’ve got that title money, when you get the [leverage] right, when you f****** play hardball? Because hardball is what gets you f****** paid and gets you f****** relevance in life. And when you have managers that work for the f****** UFC, they ain’t going to stand up for you when you f****** want that worth. When you want that f****** paycheck, when it really comes down to it and you don’t want just your win and your show [purse] — get your f****** worth. Don’t f****** play the system because it’s easy, don’t sign that last fight contract because it’s easy. Hold out to the f****** end and put your f****** balls on the line.”