In a dramatic turn of events, Paulo Costa's journey to UFC 294 has been riddled with ups and downs, as the fan-favorite Brazilian middleweight reveals the truth behind the canceled UFC 291 bout against Ikram Aliskerov.
Costa disclosed that he had known for quite some time that the highly anticipated matchup with Aliskerov wasn't going to materialize. The UFC had used the announcement as part of a negotiation tactic during a stand-off over Costa's new contract. Speaking on The MMA Hour, Costa explained,
"It was like 99 percent chance of not happening...they don’t have any other fighter available to fight you now. Something like that.”
While Costa acknowledges Aliskerov's talent, he believed the young prospect needed to take more significant strides in his career before facing the big names. As fate would have it, both fighters were later removed from UFC 291 and rebooked in separate bouts for UFC 294. Costa now gears up to face the formidable Khamzat Chimaev, a fight that has been brewing amidst a heated feud.
The road to this showdown, however, was not without its difficulties. Costa has been sidelined for 14 months, and the negotiations for the Chimaev fight were at times tumultuous. Initially skeptical about the proposed October date, Costa implored the UFC to find him an opponent, suggesting names like Strickland or Cannonier. Yet, those options were part of the promotion's other plans.
The situation left Costa in limbo with no fights on the horizon, but a ray of hope emerged when the UFC proposed a bout against Jan Blachowicz. Unfortunately, that plan fell through due to Blachowicz's unavailability, and Costa found himself contemplating his future as a free agent.
Amidst the tension, veteran MMA manager Tiki Ghosn stepped in to help bridge the gap between Costa and the UFC. Though both sides pushed hard, they managed to find common ground, culminating in a contract renewal and the confirmation of the Chimaev clash—a fight that UFC President Dana White himself championed.
As the dust settles, Costa remains unfazed by the UFC's previous use of the Aliskerov fight as a negotiation tactic. He looks forward to making a triumphant return against Chimaev and putting the past behind him.
The stage is set for an explosive showdown as Paulo Costa and Khamzat Chimaev prepare to collide at UFC 294. Fans can't wait to witness the resolution of Costa's long-standing contract dispute and the culmination of the fiery rivalry between the two middleweights. Stay tuned for an electrifying night of action on October 21 in Abu Dhabi.