Each of the six times Paulo Costa has previously stepped foot into the Octagon, everyone watching has had the same question: how does that guy make 185 pounds?
The six-foot tall Brazilian looks like he has been chiseled out of granite; a human action figure with bronze skin, washboard abs, and the kind of musculature that makes it quite clear that you don’t not want to be on the receiving end of too many of his punches because the dude is swinging cinder blocks for hands.
And ahead of each of his first six trips into the Octagon, the 30-year-old middleweight has stepped on the scale and made weight.
But not this time.
Wednesday afternoon, Costa announced at his media availability that he would not be able to make the middleweight limit ahead of his main event showdown with Marvin Vettori this weekend in Las Vegas. He hoped the contest could be changed to a catchweight affair, deferring to his opponent to set the new threshold, and made the case for the bout being even more exciting if neither he nor Vettori are required to weigh 185 pounds for an hour or so on Friday morning.
“It was a mix of things,” Costa said on Wednesday afternoon when asked the cause for his elevated weight less than 48 hours before he is scheduled to step on the scale. “It was the travel, the lack of sleep; everything together in getting here.
“I think it’s going to be a better fight just having two guys at this weight,” he quickly added, shifting in salesman mode. “I think it’s going to be more powerful, more exciting.”
On Thursday night, the combatants agreed to a 205-pound bout, keeping the main event intact and giving Costa the opportunity to compete for the first time in over a year.
The last time Costa made the walk to the Octagon was last September at UFC 253, when he challenged Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title.
He was undefeated, having won 13 consecutive bouts, the first dozen of those by stoppage, and the last five since arriving in the UFC. After plowing through his first four opponents like an unstoppable juggernaut, the heavy-hitting Brazilian showed grit and tenacity by edging out perennial contender Yoel Romero in a Fight of the Night-winning battle at UFC 241 the previous summer, putting him at the top of the list to face Adesanya.
The duo traded jabs on social media, each promising to make quick and easy work of the other, but when the cage door closed and the action began, it was all Adesanya, as “The Last Stylebender” styled on the challenger, securing a second-round stoppage win to retain his title and bounce “Costa from the ranks of the unbeaten.
“It hasn’t changed me,” Costa said of losing for the first time in his professional career. “That fight was foretelling and I’m just making sure that won’t happen anymore.”
He doesn’t expand, but it seems like he’s drawing connections between that contest and this one, as he’s previously talked about struggling to sleep the night before his championship bout and the impact it had on him prior to stepping into the Octagon.
Top Finishes: Paulo Costa
Top Finishes: Paulo Costa
“I’m making sure my nutrition, my weight, my recovery (are taken care of) and (focused on) performing very well, as I always did before I fought Adesanya.”
Except maybe not the weight thing, at least not this time.
This is the contradictory side of Costa — one that has appeared at times in the past and is front and center this week, as just a few hours after declaring he wasn’t going to make the middleweight limit and that a fight with Vettori would be more interesting if neither of them cut weight, he’s speaking about keeping his nutrition and weight on point and firm in his position that he will continue fighting at 185 pounds going forward, even though light heavyweight is right there, constantly in need of exciting new additions.
“Who knows, right?” he said with a laugh when asked about what this next chapter of his career would hold. “I don’t know, but I expect very, very good things, man.
“I believe in myself a lot, I know my potential, my strengths, my mentality. I love to fight. I love training. I love doing workouts. I can only see good things coming.
“No, no — I will keep fighting at middleweight,” he said without pause when asked about a potential shift to the light heavyweight division. “I will take the belt, defend it some times, and after that, I can think about doing another move.”
Like Costa, Vettori enters Saturday night’s contest coming off a championship loss to Adesanya, as the Italian dropped a unanimous decision to the Nigerian-born, New Zealand-based titleholder in June.
It was the second time he’d been bested by Adesanya, with the two losses serving as bookends on either side of a five-fight winning streak that highlighted the growth Vettori had made since their first encounter and carried him into title contention.
“It’ll be another fight,” Costa said of his clash with Vettori, offering a slightly different take on the contest than he did earlier in the day. “I don’t see anything special from him, but it’s a tough fight and I will be there to do my best and knock him out.
“That’s my goal; that’s always my goal.”
Knocking out Vettori is his Saturday night goal, his short-term target to hit, but bigger picture, he wants another crack at Adesanya, and promised that when things go the way he envisions them playing out this weekend, he’ll once again call out the champion.
“When this fight is finished, I will tell everyone I want to fight for the title,” he said confidently.
Will it happen?
Costa himself said it best — who knows?
Don't miss Costa face Marvin Vettori in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Costa vs Vettori, live on ESPN+ from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday, October 23, 2021. Prelims begin at 1pm ET/10am PT, with the main card following at 3pm ET/1pm PT.