After losing to Israel Adesanya in a middleweight title bout last September, Paulo Costa has been staying in shape while he awaits word on his next opponent from the UFC.
According to Costa´s manager, Wallid Ismail, Robert Whittaker is the target.
“No. 1 against No. 2, that's the fight to be made,” Ismail told Sherdog.com. “UFC wants it and we want it. We have a [preliminary] agreement about it.”
Alex Prates, Whittaker’s coach, also mentioned a preliminary agreement with the UFC to Sherdog, but he did not confirm the opponent.
"Robert never chooses opponents,” Prates said. “[It] doesn’t matter if it will be Adesanya, Costa or [Marvin] Vettori. The only thing Whitaker cares about is that UFC promised him a fight for the belt next. If it will be a linear or interim [belt], he doesn’t care. But it has to be for the title.”
In the meantime, Costa is training hard and adding new tools to his game. On Friday, he published a video on his YouTube channel where he and wrestling coach Eric Albarracin visited the Pitbull Brothers academy in Rio Grande Do Norte, Brazil. There, Costa learned some karate movements with Mano Santana, head coach of Bellator two-division champion Patricio Freire.
During the video, Freire arrives at the academy and speaks to “Borrachinha.” The video also received praise from one of the most respected Shotokan Karate masters in Brazil, Vinicio Anthony, who was the head coach of Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida in MMA.
"That could be a turning point in his career. Karate is the best art in distance control, exactly where he got lost against Adesanya,” Anthony said. “‘Borrachinha’ is a monster on the ground, and I witnessed that with my own eyes when he helped Belfort in a camp. Mano Santana is a phenomenal trainer, and if he teaches Costa to use karate distance, not only to attack, but to get the right distance to take Adesanya down, a rematch could be a completely different fight.
“Vitor Belfort and Patricio Pitbull are great examples of jiu-jitsu black belts that added karate to their game and changed totally their MMA game. But of course, first Costa must face another monster, which is Robert Whitaker, who is also a great karate fighter. The most important point is that he was humble enough to open his mind and add new tools to his arsenal.”