Paulo Costa returns to active competition at UFC 291 on July 29, 2023, which is about 11 months after his last fight for the promotion against Luke Rockhold. Contractual issues kept him from fighting at UFC 284 in Australia, and looked like they’d result in “Borrachinha” leaving for more lucrative employment.
In the end, Costa and UFC reached a deal that the former Middleweight title contender said made him the highest paid Brazilian in the sport. During an interview with Ag Fight, UFC President, Dana White, explained how they worked things out.
“I think that every fighter we deal with is different in certain ways,” he said. “You know, some are easy, some are tougher. But, that’s our job, that’s what we do. Our job is to get deals done and we finally got him dialed in, and it will be fun to see him fight in Utah. His last fight with Rockhold in Utah was awesome, it was a total war ... He’s fun to watch, it’s good to have him back.”
Originally, it looked like UFC was going to pack Costa in bubblewrap until an October fight against Khamzat Chimaev in Abu Dhabi. Then, there was a surprise announcement: the No. 5-ranked Costa would fight relatively unknown (and unranked) Middleweight, Ikram Aliskerov.
“I guarantee you this, he’s fighting a tough guy, and it’ll be a damn good fight,” White promised. “And like I said before, when you’re negotiating and doing deals with fights ... you know, they’re not as easy behind the scenes as they seem on the surface.”
If the Costa / UFC negotiations were tougher behind the scenes than they were on the surface, they must have been pretty rough. UFC tried to strong-arm Costa into fighting Robert Whittaker in Australia. For months, Costa told media he hadn’t signed a bout agreement and wouldn’t fight without a new contract paying him more money. At the time, “Borrachina” was still only making $70,000 to show and $70,000 to win.
In response, White dragged Costa during interviews, calling him a “lunatic” and implying he didn’t deserve a pay raise because his last fight was a “ridiculous, horrible performance.” You know, standard promoter things.
We’re still not 100 percent sure things between UFC and Costa are cool now. A deal may have been made that pays Paulo a lot per fight, but benching him until October and then throwing him to the wolf known as Khamzat? That isn’t the behavior of a company looking out for a fighter’s long-term viability.
And neither is booking him against an unknown prospect like Aliskerov in a fight bookies are calling a toss up.
To see who else is fighting on the upcoming UFC 291 fight card click here.