Rockhold recently spoke with Submission Radio about several topics, including his upcoming fight against Paulo Costa at UFC 278 on August 20 in Salt Lake City, Utah. And during the interview, the new kid on the block, Pereira, came up.
The victory elevated the previously unranked Brazilian to No. 6 and coupled with his two kickboxing victories over reigning UFC 185-pound king Israel Adesanya, Poatan appears next in line for a title fight.
Rockhold admitted that the narrative around Adesanya vs. Pereira is “intriguing” — Poatan knocked out “The Last Stylebender” in their second match in 2017 — however, he thinks the Brazilain would “get mauled” by several UFC fighters.
“Yeah, it’s an intriguing story, Alex Pereira has beat Izzy twice,” Rockhold said via Sherdog. “And so you’re looking at any level of intrigue, and so they’re looking for someone that they can throw in the mix, even though Alex Pereira would get mauled by, 20 guys in the UFC would probably maul him. But yeah, it’s a compelling story if you get him past a brawler like Sean Strickland. So, they did it, and it’s up and going. So, it’s my job to go f****** deter that.”
Rockhold Hopes to Rejoin the Middleweight Title Picture With a Win over Costa
Rockhold (16-5) is currently unranked at 185 pounds due to his inactivity in the division. The last time he stepped inside the Octagon as a middleweight was when he competed for the interim strap against Yoel Romero at UFC 221 in February 2018. Rockhold lost via third-round KO.
He bulked up to light heavyweight in 2019 and was stopped by Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239. Rockhold hasn’t fought since.
With his move back to middleweight, Rockhold said that if he can “smoke” Costa, he’ll reinsert himself back at the top of the 185-pound heap.
“Anything is possible with this fight and in this fight,” Rockhold said. “I mean, Marvin Vettori is the No. 1 guy in the world, right? Or [Robert] Whittaker? Paulo’s only been smoked by Izzy. Vettori barely, he didn’t do anything great against him last time. So, if I can go out there and smoke him, it’s gonna tell.”
Rockhold Views a Contest With Adesanya as a ‘Straightforward Fight’
Middleweight athletes know what they’re getting with Adesanya: superb striking abilities, elite-level fight IQ and countering. They won’t have to worry about a takedown, but on the feet, their hands are full.
Rockhold recognizes that and he believes that he can defeat The Last Stylebender “with the right game.”
In fact, he doesn’t think that Adesanya is his hardest test at 185 pounds. To Rockhold, former middleweight champ Robert Whittaker is.
“I know how to fight Izzy. It’s a straightforward fight. He’s a tough fight, man. He’s a big puzzle,” Rockhold said. “He’s the most complicated puzzle there is at middleweight that there’s been for a long time. So, it’s going to be interesting. But I think with the right game, that’s my fight.
“We were talking the other night and I think the hardest fight for me right now is Whittaker. But if I play the right game with many of these guys, it’s my fight. So, I just gotta be level-headed and focused and f****** go out there and do my thing.”