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Paulo Costa: Brazil needs a new MMA hero, and 'I think I’m the biggest name to carry the torch’

Paulo Costa believes he's the future face of mixed martial arts in Brazil.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Paulo Costa has only fought three times in the UFC, but that’s enough to convince him that he’s the one to bring Brazilian MMA back to where it once was.

Days after knocking out former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks at UFC 217 in New York, the Brazilian middleweight spoke with Ariel Helwani on Thursday’s special edition of The MMA Hour, and said he will follow the steps of the legends of the last generation.

"We need a new hero in Brazil because we had many legends in the last generations, but now we need to renew this,” Costa said. "And I think I have the biggest name to carry the torch.”

Costa calls fellow middleweight Anderson Silva the greatest MMA fighter of all-time in Brazil, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t agree to share the cage with him one day — even though he’s not sure “The Spider” would ever take it.

"It’s a great honor for me because he’s my idol. No problem,” Costa said of a fight with Silva. "It’s good for me. He’s my idol, so I think he’s amazing. But I don’t know, he’s a superstar so maybe he wants to make super fights."

Another legend of the sport in Brazil was close to fighting Costa in the UFC, though, as the UFC reached out to Vitor Belfort with an offer to face “The Eraser” earlier this year.

Costa went on social media and said Belfort was scared after “The Phenom” turned down the offer, and the MMA veteran was not happy about the things Costa said, citing the two having trained together in the past.

"He made the same with Anderson Silva," said Costa, referring to Belfort’s UFC title fight with Silva alter the duo trained together in the past.

"He called me when he was going to fight Chris Weidman, but the fight (was cancelled) because Chris Weidman injured his ribs and he (didn’t speak) with me again after. It was not good,” Costa continued. "I trained with Vitor two times, he called me, but I’m not his friend. And he’s not my friend too. And I’m professional.

"The UFC called Wallid Ismail, my agent, and said ‘ok, we have a new fight for Paulo here, against Vitor Belfort, what do you think about?’ Wallid called me and said that, and I said, ‘Of course, let’s go now. When is this fight?’ And Wallid called (the UFC) again and said, ‘Ok, let’s do this’, and Vitor said, ‘No, he’s coming now (to the UFC).’ I don’t know why Vitor don’t like this fight."

Costa is no longer looking for a fight with Belfort next, as he targets a March return to the Octagon against Derek Brunson or any other top-10 opponent.

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