Paulo Costa returns to the octagon to face former UFC and Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold in the co-main event of UFC 278 in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. UFC analyst Vitor Miranda wonders how much the decisions he’s made outside the cage affect his performance on Saturday night.
Costa spent the past few months discussing fighter pay and posting memes about UFC President Dana White on social media. He switched managers ahead of UFC 278, too, replacing his longtime agent Wallid Ismail for his girlfriend, Tamara Alves, who, according to him, “has good relationship” with the UFC.
“I think that affects a lot, negatively speaking,” Miranda said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca. “In my fighting experience, I would deal as little as possible with that in such delicate moments. I would focus 100 percent [on the fight], wouldn’t want to know how much I’m making until I win my fight and then, when I’m calm, I’d think about it.”
As for Costa’s decision to have his girlfriend as manager to seek better pay in negotiations with Dana White and UFC matchmakers, Miranda said “anything can happen, the sport is evolving, but it’s difficult because this is a hard fight to win.”
“‘Borrachinha’ is a monster, a guy that brings in the public either to root for him or against him, which is the premise of the guy that has this type of personality,” Miranda said. “In theory, he’s bringing money to the UFC, but how many of those guys the UFC has that maybe don’t bother them that much in negotiations and things like that? Anyway, it’s complicated.
“It’s not a fair fight, even. Could fighters get paid better? They could. Does the UFC make an absurd amount of money that could be split better? Yes. But, man, it’s complicated, right? Our role as an athlete is to try to perform the best way possible to negotiate that naturally without having to force anything or start a war.”
For Miranda, such distractions could play a factor when Costa steps in the cage to face Rockhold. Costa hopes to bounce back from defeats to Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori, having missed weight badly for his most recent bout. He hasn’t won a fight since a three-round decision over Yoel Romero in Aug. 2019.
“I think all that affects the fighter and his performance,” Miranda said. “Maybe ‘Borrachinha’ is bulletproof mentally speaking, which I don’t think he is. We saw that in his performance against Adesanya, the many issues he’s had, couldn’t sleep and all that, and that drained him in a way he couldn’t perform in the fight. And switching managers, fighting for more money and contract. … Man, that drains the athlete and can affect [him] during the fight.”
As a fighter, Miranda made it to the heavyweight final on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3, a season where Costa competed as a middleweight. Miranda won three straight after cutting down to middleweight between 2014 and 2016, but announced his retirement in 2018 after decision defeats to Chris Camozzi, Marvin Vettori and Abu Azaitar. Working as an analyst for the UFC in Brazil and breaking down fights on YouTube, Miranda explains why he disagrees with the odds and picks Rockhold as the favorite.
“The thing is Rockhold hasn’t been active in a while, and that makes a difference in a high-level fight,” Miranda said. “But, if [Rockhold] wakes up that day and everything happens the right way, he performs well and executes in the fight what he’s trained, he wins. I don’t know how he is today, but, if he’s well-trained, he’s a very dangerous guy. He’s very technical both on the feet and on the ground. He’s a southpaw, and that alone complicates things for his opponents. And his game isn’t favorable for ‘Borrachinha’.
“‘Borrachinha’ does well against guys that fight in a mid to close range. Yoel Romero was one of the greatest fights because Romero doesn’t land or throw that much and accepts that type of fight. Rockhold won’t accept that. In theory, he’ll use his movement well and keep the distance so he can throw left hands and jabs from a long distance. He has strong kicks to the body that hurt you, and then he goes up for head kicks. I think it’s a complicated fight for ‘Borrachinha.’
“Sure, anyone can land a good one and the other goes down, and ‘Borrachinha’ has better chances in doing that than Rockhold. But I think Rockhold is very smart. If he doesn’t get scared, because ‘Borrachinha’ is scary — most of the fights he’s won, he won by backing up his opponent against the fence. In theory, Rockhold won’t accept that type of game, so I think I would favor Rockhold against ‘Borrachinha.’”