With the most important win of his career, Paulo Costa leapfrogged the rest of the UFC’s middleweight division and now stands as a clear-cut contender.
It took all of 15 minutes for Costa to prove that he was the better man against Yoel Romero, but “Borrachinha” triumphed on the scorecards at UC 241 on Saturday, defeating the man who went five-round with UFC champion Robert Whittaker on two occasions. The performance was a massive statement for the 28-year-old Costa, who is 5-0 in the UFC and 13-0 overall.
Now he plans to wait for the winner of the UFC 243 middleweight championship unification bout between Whittaker and interim champion Israel Adesanya. Costa has confidently spoken of himself as the best in his division and after defeating Romero he’s even more certain that he can beat the two men at the top, especially Adesanya.
“I think that both are looking to me, scared,” Costa said at Saturday’s post-fight presser. “Because both guys know now they have a very, very tough guy looking for them. I think Whittaker will beat Adesanya, but I beat Romero.
“For me, Romero won against Robert Whittaker, but if Adesanya won, takes the belt, man I can kill that guy. He’s very skinny, he does not have a chance against me.”
Costa was particularly irked by Adesanya mentioning him as a possible opponent last year. That matchup never materialized, with Adesanya instead going on to beat Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, and lastly Kelvin Gastelum to win an interim title, but Costa hasn’t forgotten Adesanya’s remarks.
“Because Adesanya talks shit about me too,” Costa said. “After my last fight against Uriah Hall in 2018, he asked me to fight against him and he say, ‘I can beat this—he say I have dinosaur arms.’ So it’s personal.”
In the Romero bout, Costa fought into the third round for the first time in his career, which went a long way towards answering questions about whether he was more than a fast starter and how he might perform in a five-round championship bout. “Borrachinha” doesn’t think anyone should be surprised by his success against Romero given that he trains for five rounds “in high intensity.”
It’s because of this intense sparring that Costa said he will not sign on to be a backup for UFC 243 in October should either Whittaker or Adesanya be forced to withdraw.
“No, absolutely not. … Not backup,” Costa said. “I trained [too] hard to be a backup. I train so hard. I need to confirm the fight to do my camp. My camp is wild, it’s jungle wild. Look, I forget to say in the Octagon, I broke my ribs this year. I broke two ribs in this last camp. I broke my biceps, clear off the leg. This is crazy. I bring nine fighters to spar with me. Our guys go back to home with injuries because of wild training camp.
“I cannot be a backup, I need to confirm that fight to make my camp.”
When the time comes, Costa believes he has the skill set needed to take out whoever is standing in the way of championship gold. And that it will be considerably easier compared to what he had to go through against Romero.
“[Adesanya and Whittaker] are not tougher than Yoel,” Costa said. “So because this I know, Israel [hasn’t proven he’s tough] yet. Whittaker is a true champion, but he’s not more tough guy than Yoel. Because of that I say I can beat both.”