For Rockhold (16-5 MMA, 6-4 UFC), the pay-per-view event at Vivint Arena marks his first fight since UFC 239 in 2019. Just ahead of his return three years in the making, his opponent Costa (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) vowed to send him away for good to put an exclamation point on their expletive-filled exchanges at Thursday’s pre-fight news conference.
The two middleweights didn’t spend much time diving into the details about how they plan on dismantling one another, but Rockhold did offer one fight-specific warning to Costa, who was critical of the former champion’s BJJ skills just a day prior.
“I’ll treat Paulo like a b*tch if it gets to the ground,” Rockhold told reporters. “It’ll be over.”
“Oh, man, come on,” Costa replied with a laugh. “This guy is too old to say this kind of bullish*t. Come on, man. Come on.”
Costa’s response sparked an expletive-fueled reply from Rockhold, who accused his opponent of delaying the matchup in order to get cosmetic surgery.
“This motherf*cker didn’t want to take this fight in the first place,” Rockhold said. “The UFC forced it down his throat, and he delayed it twice. Month after month after all the cosmetic bullsh*t you got done? You little b*tch, shut up.”
Both fighters enter this fight on a two-fight skid. While both plan to emerge victorious, Costa, 31, made the strongest declaration of the verbal exchanges, by vowing to end the 37-year-old Rockhold’s career.
“I’m in my prime time, I will f*ck this old man on this Saturday,” Costa said. “He is visibly uncomfortable because he knows he will face a monster. And he knows already, look at him – he’s not comfortable. … I will retire him on Saturday.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 278.