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Paulo Costa responds to Khamzat Chimaev, predicts first-round knockout at UFC 294

Paulo Costa’s upcoming fight against Khamzat Chimaev is already one of the most anticipated non-title bouts on the UFC’s calendar.

The fan-favorite Brazilian and Chimaev are set to meet in a middleweight grudge match on Oct. 21 at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena at UFC 294. According to Costa, it’s a matchup the UFC had penciled in for its annual return to Abu Dhabi since the beginning of 2023 — and if Costa is to be believed, it’s also a matchup Chimaev tried as hard as possible to avoid.

“You know what’s interesting, because I want that fight so bad — a lot, I want a lot that fight. Dana [White] wants a lot that fight. The audience wants that fight. But not Chimaev,” Costa said on The MMA Hour. “Chimaev doesn’t want that fight, so he tried hard to get another guy to fight. Leon Edwards, Belal Muhammad, [Kamaru] Usman, he called all these guys — this is crazy — to fight him, and only the guys in the [lower weight] division. But he’s kind of nuts, because he was not fighting at 170. He’s going to fight at 185, so he was trying to pull up some lighter guys to 185 — you understand? — and not fight a genuine 185er.”

Costa, 32, detailed the origin of his beef with Chimaev in a lengthy and wide-ranging interview on Wednesday’s edition of The MMA Hour. He said the bad blood began in 2022 ahead of Chimaev’s scheduled fight against Nate Diaz at UFC 279, when Costa was working with Diaz’s longtime teammate Jake Shields at the UFC Performance Institute and Chimaev was watching nearby. Costa said he eventually approached Chimaev and asked why Chimaev was eyeballing him, to which Chimaev responded that he wanted to know why Costa had been talking trash. Costa said he told Chimaev that it was because he wanted to fight him, and tensions escalated from there, with the two nearly coming to blows.

Costa and Chimaev have traded countless shots online and in interviews since, and that continued this past weekend at UFC London when Chimaev accused Costa of not being a real Brazilian and vowed, “I’m going to go smash this guy, make him cry.”

Once he heard the comments, Costa couldn’t help but laugh.

“He’s nuts. He’s crazy. He don’t say nothing relevant, nothing [that] makes sense. He’s crazy,” Costa said.

“I love him. He’s making me make money. He’s a good fighter. At the end, very deep at the bottom, he’s a good fighter. Let’s go. Let’s go there, beat him at his f****** house.”

Costa will certainly have his hands full at UFC 294.

Since entering the UFC in July 2020, Chimaev has been one of the most dominant athletes on the promotion’s roster, tearing through six straight opponents across the welterweight and middleweight divisions. Aside from his thrilling war of attrition with Gilbert Burns, Chimaev has been hit with just one significant strike in his five other UFC wins.

But Chimaev’s most impressive work came at 170 pounds, and Costa is confident he’ll be able to tell a different story about his run-in with “The Wolf” once all is said and done.

“I think this fight will be crazy and it’s going to end in the first round,” Costa said.

“Knockout. I will not try to submit him. I’m a black belt but I will not try to submit him. I don’t think he’s going to try to submit me as well. So explosive of a guy, so full of energy. I prefer knockout.”

“I think everything about this fight is going to be very intense,” Costa added. “Even now, so long before the fight, it’s so intense. And the press conference is going to be crazy. The fight I think is going to be crazy as well. I think he’s going to be so aggressive, he’s going to jump on the legs, try to put me down, put me in wrestling [situations]. Everything about this fight is amazing. It’s a great fight.”

Chimaev has been sidelined since a botched weight cut at UFC 279 led to a last-second switch in opposition from Diaz to Kevin Holland, however he remains one of the most hyped contenders in either of the UFC’s welterweight or middleweight divisions. Costa, meanwhile, is one of the most popular athletes at 185 pounds and is coming off a thrilling victory over former UFC champion Luke Rockhold this past August at UFC 278.

So considering the uncertain situation at 185 pounds, with Dricus Du Plessis and Sean Strickland both vying to be the next title challenger for Israel Adesanya, Costa is confident he’ll be able to cut the line if he defeats Chimaev as impressively as he expects.

“I think due to all this situation in the middleweight division and due to all this hype about this fight against me, against Chimaev, the next in line is going to be the winner,” he said.

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