Adesanya needed less than two rounds to dispose of Paulo Costa and successfully defend his middleweight title at UFC 253 on Saturday, but he wasn’t finished the challenger once the fight had been stopped. As referee Jason Herzog stepped in to separate the fighters, Adesanya pretended to hump Costa from behind and then he walked over to Costa’s corner and directed an obscene gesture at Costa’s team.
The actions were the culmination of months of bad blood and trash talk between Adesanya and Costa, though it’s arguable that Adesanya may have crossed a line with his behavior. Speaking to the media at a scrum in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Hardy gave his take on the situation.
“It was crass, is the truth,” Hardy said .”It was unnecessary and it was crass. It’s not good for the sport to be seeing those things, but at the same time we see a lot of the superstars they stand out, they create headlines because of the thing that they do. [Adesanya] was urinating on the octagon in his UFC debut. We shouldn’t be surprised by these things.
“There’s a lot of animosity between these guys and we do act out when we’re in these scenarios. When your adrenaline’s up, you’ve just won the fight, you’ve got all this energy. How many times do you see people doing terrible dances after fights and stuff? I’ve done it myself. You don’t know what you’re saying in interviews because your adrenaline’s going, you’re just ‘blllaaaaah!’ It happens. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep control of yourselves in those circumstances, but that’s when you see someone like that and you kind of think, well, it wasn’t in the spirit of martial arts and really that’s what we want to be seeing, to represent the sport as a whole. But ultimately, these people have to be their individual selves.”
Unsurprisingly, Costa’s team has blasted Adesanya for the post-fight celebration, with Costa calling him “human trash” and Costa’s manager Wallid Ismail saying that Adesanya’s actions were “disgusting.”
The Costa camp is already campaigning for a rematch, which is why Hardy believes they’re unlikely to divulge too many details about what went wrong on Saturday. Hardy has his own theory, including the possibility that the typically fast-finishing Costa might have difficulty developing the stamina for a five-round fight. He also credited Adesanya with being a difficult puzzle to solve, not unlike middleweight great Anderson Silva.
“If you’re a three-round fighter and you’re fighting over five rounds, you may not be able to elevate your conditioning to five rounds,” Hardy said. “You may just have to manage that energy system. So starting hard and going fast for three rounds and then having to fight when you’re gassed and you’re trying to defend yourself against Adesanya is not the smart thing to do. So if I was in Costa’s corner I would have probably said the same thing: Take it easy the first round, don’t give him too much to search on, don’t give him too much research, don’t give him too much to kind of figure out and set you up. But unfortunately I just don’t think that Costa had the operating system against Izzy to be able to understand what was going on when he was in the pocket.
“You remember when Anderson Silva came into the sport, it was like witchcraft. He’s in there and people just don’t know what to do. We’ve got guys like Chris Leben that come crashing forward and knocking people out, couldn’t lay a hand on Anderson Silva, and there’s something very disconcerting about that. When you know that you normally close distance and hurt people pretty quickly and you can’t touch them. I think it was 12 strikes that he landed in the total fight. It was just a spectacular performance from Izzy, he manages range so well. It must be very much like fighting Khabib [Nurmagomedov]. You can’t really understand what his wrestling’s like until he’s got his hands on you. I think when you stand in front of Israel Adesanya, you can’t really understand what that’s like until it’s there. And when it’s there, it’s too late.”