Once it became clear that he wasn’t going to make the middleweight limit, Paulo Costa did everything he could to tilt the odds in his favor heading into the UFC Fight Night 196 main event.
Even though he convinced opponent Marvin Vettori to agree to fight at 205 pounds and he was clearly the larger athlete in the Octagon on Saturday, Costa still dropped a unanimous decision to “The Italian Dream.” As result, UFC president Dana White was singing Vettori’s praises at Saturday’s post-fight press conference.
“We were trying to keep this fight alive and make sure that it happened, and we couldn’t have done it without a guy like Vettori,” White said. “Vettori acted like an absolute professional, stud, a guy that’s incredible to work with. That’s why this fight happened.”
According to White, Costa entered the cage at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night at 220 pounds, while Vettori weighed 208. Despite the visible size difference, Vettori set a light heavyweight record with 190 significant strikes landed in his victory. And that was against a game opponent who kept attacking until the final horn of the fifth round.
“Again, you have to give all the credit to Vettori,” White said. “He was willing to fight at any weight and didn’t let this stuff mess with his head. At the end of the day, it’s all about the fight. They both fought their ass off. 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 that heavy, you have to question whether he’s in shape or not. He was in shape.”
Costa revealed after the bout that a left bicep injury prevented him from properly training and cutting weight heading into his matchup with Vettori.
”“The only problem is I lost this fight, so it will look like an excuse,” Costa said. “I don’t have an excuse for anything. I did a good job there — Marvin as well. “Congratulations to him, and to me, I think. But I had some problems to not come in here with my usual weight.”
Despite those issues, Costa wasn’t especially remorseful about making his opponent agree to a change in weight on the week of their fight.
“No, no, no way,” he said. “I came here and the UFC suggested to fight at a catchweight or 205, and I just said yes, let’s go. I don’t care for weight. This is a fair fight. Both guys made weight on the same day at the same limit, so what could be more fair than that?”
While Costa may have been fine with how things turned out, the transgression could ultimately cost him if he still has designs on capturing championship gold at 185 pounds because it appears that his future could be at light heavyweight.
“We absolutely tell you where to fight when this happens,” White said. “He’s gonna have to fight at 205.”