Paulo Costa’s future in the UFC appears as though it will be at 205 pounds.
Costa’s weight was the story that dominated UFC Vegas 41 fight week as the Brazilian showed up to Las Vegas for his main event with Marvin Vettori unable to make the middleweight limit of 186 pounds. The bout was eventually shifted to a 195-pound catchweight to accommodate Costa before shifting again into a light heavyweight contest.
Despite all of Costa’s pre-fight shenanigans, Vettori rolled with the punches and ultimately bested Costa in a five-round war of attrition on Saturday night. And although UFC president Dana White was impressed with Costa’s performance in defeat inside of the octagon, the Brazilian’s antics outside of the cage meant that UFC Vegas 41 will likely be the final time Costa is permitted to book a middleweight UFC fight for the foreseeable future.
“He’s a light heavyweight,” White said at the event’s post-fight press conference.
“He was in shape. It’s not like the guy showed up out of shape, or the guy has lost his mind and wasn’t training for this fight and just showed up and was overweight. He obviously trained. He can’t make ’85. It just goes to show you that he cannot make 185 pounds.”
White said the UFC was unaware of Costa’s struggles with his weight until fight week began. He noted that he believed Costa tipped the scales above 220 pounds for his fight night check-in prior to the event, while Vettori weighed in around 208 pounds.
The bout itself was a thrilling back-and-forth battle that saw Vettori and Costa combine for 386 total strikes, the fourth-highest striking output for a match in UFC history. Because Costa performed well, White said the UFC didn’t see any reason to punish the one-time title challenger any further than the 20-percent fine the commission already levied on Costa’s show purse, which went to Vettori. But White also made it clear that Costa won’t be given a chance to miss 185 pounds again.
“We absolutely tell you where to fight when this happens. He’s going to have to fight at 205,” White said.
“You have to give all the credit to Vettori. This guy was willing to fight at any weight and he didn’t let any of this stuff mess with his head. And at the end of the day, it’s all about the fight. They both fought their ass off. Costa came out and fought. Costa looked better in the fifth round than he did in the first round, so he was definitely in shape. When a guy comes in and he’s that heavy, you have to question whether he’s in shape or not. He was in shape.
“Had this thing not worked out the way that it did, he’d have been on a plane to Brazil with no money,” White continued. “He would’ve been put back on a plane, flown back to Brazil, and wouldn’t have made a dime on this fight. So when you talk about prizefighters that are getting money to actually get in and perform — when they perform, then he had to give up 20 percent of that. So I think that’s punishment enough, plus you guys [the media] beat him up pretty good this week too, and deservedly.”
Costa, for his part, attributed his struggles on the scale at UFC Vegas 41 to a left bicep injury he claimed he suffered in camp, which prevented him from training to the degree he needed to in order to bring his weight down to a more manageable starting point.
He also pushed back on the idea that the UFC would make him compete in the light heavyweight division moving forward.
“I could fight 205 but I could fight 185 as well, so I think it’s better to me to come back to my weight, to 185, look for the belt, and after that move [up a division],” Costa said in his post-fight press conference. “I can fight 205 anytime, but if I can make 185, why not?”
Costa conceded that White had a point regarding how Saturday’s main event showed that he could be competitive at 205 pounds and ultimately didn’t rule out the move up in weight entirely. But it also didn’t sound as if Costa will get much say in the matter.
When asked about Costa’s comments about wanting to stay at 185 pounds and prove that the division belongs to him, White’s response was telling.
“Yeah. This is going to be fun,” White said. “I promise you it’s not [your division].”