UFC middleweight title challenger Paulo Costa declared victory over Israel Adesanya after an ESPN interview and predicted a violent finish against a champ whom he said “freezes” against top competition.
“I have just one question, Adesanya, why were you frozen when you faced [Yoel] Romero?” he told Submission Radio. “You are not a real champion, man, you don’t deserve it. I will kill you.”
Costa mocked Adesanya’s display of an award during the ESPN interview, which took place this past week and saw sparks between the middleweights. The 29-year-old Brazilian said his work getting into the champ’s head was already done, adding Adesanya is “a bunch messed up in his mind for this fight.”
When matched against Adesanya’s athleticism and skill, Costa indicated brute force would carry the day.
“He knows he’s fragile,” Costa said. “He knows he cannot get two or three very hard hits on his face, on his body. He will be broken. He knows that already because he was knocked out two times. ... Imagine what I can do with him, with his skinny, fragile body with 4 ounces on my hands.”
Adesanya attempts the second defense of his title on Sept. 26 when he meets Costa in the headliner of UFC 253. The rivals’ showdown was delayed due to a torn bicep and surgery for Costa. In March, Adesanya defeated perennial contender Yoel Romero in his first defense.
Costa cited the Romero fight and Adesanya’s reactions to him as proof of an insecurity he believed he could exploit.
“As you saw, when I gave the opportunity to speak with him directly, he showed how unconfident he is,” the Brazilian contender said. “He tried to show every time [his trophies] he got. Like, every time he went, ‘Oh, look how good I am.’ He needed to prove to the people and to himself that he’s good.”
“If you really believe you’re very good, you don’t need to show this kind of stuff, but he froze. And this is what he did when he met a potential competitor, a real competitor like me, like he froze against Romero.
“He’s used to doing that. He called out Jon Jones to fight. And then when Jon Jones accepted his challenge, he said, ‘No, I’m not prepared yet, I need one or two years to get more weight, to get more muscle to fight Jon Jones.’ So, Adesanya, unfortunately he is this kind of guy who freezes when he faces a real competitor.”
Adesanya has repeatedly called Costa a “juice monkey” and dismissed his skills in the octagon. He blasted the No. 1 contender for criticizing his performance against Romero, blaming the Cuban fighter for a lackluster fight. He called Costa “dumb” and predicted the challenger would run out of gas before being finished. In response, Costa flashed his abs during the ESPN interview.
Costa said the foundation for his physique – and his concussive results – are set in the gym, where he said he engages in real fights that prepare him to take whatever is dealt out by opponents. He cited his bloody win over Romero as evidence of the damage he could take.
“I like to think of myself like a real tough guy – maybe the toughest guy on the planet,” he said. “Because I train very hard, with two, three guys at the same session training with very hard hits, very hard punches, very hard kicks for real. 100 percent, I mean. Not just fake, just shadowboxing. No.
“So, this makes me very prepared to fight in real fights with real opponents like Romero. I am not afraid to get hit, because I did this already in my fight camp for two or three months. So, I’m properly prepared to make it a real fight. So, that’s the difference I think I have between me and Adesanya.”
Several who’ve worked with Costa have questioned the long-term viability of that approach, including UFC President Dana White, who chided the Brazilian for burning the candle at both ends during his recovery. But for Costa, the work has paid dividends.
Costa’s coach, Eric Albarracin, said Adesanya won’t be the same after UFC 253.
“[Costa is] gonna leave him so swollen that he’s gonna have to go up to heavyweight and fight Jon Jones like he always wanted,” the coach said. “It’s COVID-19 quarantine everywhere, and I also predict Paulo will practice social distancing in the cage and separate Israel Adesanya’s teeth from his mouth by about six feet.
“There’s more to come, because guess what, we’re coming after Alex Volkanovski with Triple C, and he’s gonna become C4. And throw Kai Kara-France in there too. All you Aussies, everybody, New Zealand, you be sure to tune in early, because Paulo is gonna erase him in the first round.”
“I will erase him,” Costa agreed. “I definitely will erase him. Prepare to be erased, Adesanya.”