Paulo Costa is arguably the biggest success story from The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 at this point. In fact, there’s really little question: come UFC 253, in roughly ten days time, he’ll be the first fighter from his season to fight for gold in the UFC.
Warralley Alves and Guilherme Vasconcelos (“Bomba”) competed at middleweight alongside Costa that season. Alves wound up winning the show — while Costa was eliminated in the opening round by Márcio Alexandre Jr., who would lose in the finale, then drop a few fights in the UFC before being cut.
So what changed? How did Costa, who remains undefeated as a pro, go from being an early wash on TUF Brazil 3, to the number one contender in the UFC’s bantamweight division?
For starters, his future coach, Eric Albarracin, was a guest on the show. But perhaps more importantly, the taste of defeat did not sit well with Costa. Speaking to reporters at a virtual media day recently, Costa (13-0) explained that losing on TUF Brazil 3 “changed my mindset, changed my way of thinking about fights, and how I see myself as a fighter also.”
Since that experience, he said, the key has been to “follow my dreams, and keep my focus, my whole focus, on my goal, my dream. I maintain [my] training hard every day, and I don’t give up. That’s why I’ve been more successful than the other guys [on TUF Brazil 3], because I keep working hard.”
“When I got the decision, that loss by decision, it was not an official loss, but it helped me to not want to take one more of that feeling,” he continued. “When I felt how bad it is to take one loss in your career, I decided to work hard to not get more defeats.”
Costa has not lost since. Now, he puts his perfect record on the line against Israel Adesanya for the title — a fellow undefeated fighter. And barring a draw or no contest through some unexpected mishap, one of them will lose. Costa, however, is doing all he can to avoid that taste again.
Paulo Costa challenges Israel Adesanya for the UFC middleweight championship at UFC 253 on Fight Island (Yas Island) in Abu Dhabi, on Saturday, September 26.