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Teddy Atlas: Costa ‘The Intimidator’ became ‘The Intimidated’ against Israel Adesanya at UFC 253

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Reknown boxing trainer Teddy Atlas breaks down the mental game that Israel Adesanya won against Paulo Costa, leading to his victory in the cage at UFC 253.

UFC 253 Adesanya v Costa Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

The divide between boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) is smaller than it’s ever been. No thanks to freak show fights like Conor McGregor vs. Mayweather (or Manny Pacquiao, mind you). It’s in the crossover that’s gone on at many levels with coaches and trainers and specialists switching between sports, erasing the hard lines and egotistical differences that once kept the two combat sports in very separate spheres.

One of the latest crossovers from boxing into MMA is trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas. Atlas has been getting active in MMA circles lately, helping Francis Ngannou out with some striking pointers.

He also opined on the result of UFC 253’s main event between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa, explaining the psychology behind Adesanya’s win (watch it) that helped the Middleweight champ route the bigger, stronger Costa.

“The beating, the victory started with the mental side,” Atlas said on “The Fight” (his vidcast). “It started with the final showdown at the weigh-in. It was showing he wasn’t going to be intimidated, getting into his head. He got into his head. He made his opponent Costa behave the way he wanted him to, fight the way he wanted him to. Almost in a mindless reckless way that he could take advantage of that. He could take advantage of the bigger guy. The bigger guy thought it was enough just to be bigger. Blachowicz understood he had to be something else than just the bigger guy. And the big guy here, Costa, thought it was enough to be strong and big and intimidating.”

“We used to have a saying, when part of your package, part of your plan is to intimidate a guy, when that doesn’t work the intimidator becomes the intimidated. And that was part of it. He couldn’t intimidate this guy and this guy mentally, Adesanya, got into his head and knew that he could make him a puppet. Be a puppeteer where he could pull the strings on him and make him act the way he wanted to. Again, reckless, mindless, maybe mad. And be a dead man walking, where there’s no confidence, there’s no belief, there’s no thinking.

“There’s just a vessel, but the vessel has no leadership, no one’s steering the vessel, it’s just a ship at sea that’s just a ghost ship,” Atlas concluded. “He made him a ghost ship. He didn’t have his will left, the will was gone. He took his will away, he made the guy think he no longer had a say in the fight, that he couldn’t control thing. That Adesanya was in control. That’s brilliant. Adesanya’s special.”

What do you think, Maniacs? Is Atlas on point here? Did Adesanya really beat Costa mentally before he whupped him physically? Or was Costa’s loss the result of secret “problems” (not excuses) “Borrachinha” had that would explain the defeat?