Whittaker: Rockhold Looked Sick Of Fighting At Start Of Costa Fight

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Robert Whittaker feels the writing was on the wall for Luke Rockhold in the opening moments of his UFC 278 swansong.

Rockhold announced his MMA retirement shortly after losing on points to Paulo Costa, but the 37-year-old’s performance exceeded the expectations of many fans. Rockhold hadn’t graced the Octagon in over three years, and the last time he did, he was spectacularly knocked out by Jan Blachowicz.

However, Rockhold managed to hold his own against Costa for much of the fight, even rocking the Brazilian on several occasions. This despite Luke at many points laboring physically and looking like he was on the cusp of throwing in the towel.

Rockhold Costa

Whittaker Says Rockhold Tapped Out Mentally

For Whittaker, Rockhold’s retirement following the loss was no surprise. Speaking to Submission Radio, the #1 ranked middleweight said that Luke’s body language told the story of a man who’d lost passion for fighting.

“I think he’s had a very successful and amazing career,” said Whittaker. “He’s a phenomenal fighter, but how he performed is exactly how he spoke about it afterwards…he looked sick of it, he looked sick of fighting, and you saw that when he took the first punch, he was just like ‘you know what? I don’t really want to do this anymore.’”

Robert Whittaker
Robert Whittaker (Image Credit: Carmen Mandato)

Whittaker was scheduled to face Rockhold back in 2018, before injury forced the Australian to pull out. Rockhold went on to face Yoel Romero instead, was violently knocked out and now ends his career with three losses in his last four.

But despite his clear decline, Whittaker believes Rockhold is due respect for a career that once saw him become champ, and for continuing to fight even after so much hardship.

“I think there are too many couch critics out there that speak on fighting and don’t really understand how much of a toll [it takes], especially when you’ve been at the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows, and you’ve ridden the wave for as long as he has and you’ve done it all,” said Whittaker. “He’s been in the game for such a long time…he was fighting in Strikeforce, he had the belt…to do it all, it’s hard. Anyone can fight once…fighting ten years down the track on the later end of 30, it never gets easier.”

Despite never meeting in the Octagon, the respect between Whittaker and Rockhold is clearly mutual. Last month, Rockhold complimented the Australian by saying that if they were to fight, Whittaker would pose more of a challenge than Israel Adesanya.

What do you make of Robert Whittaker’s assessment of Luke Rockhold’s last fight?

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