A lot has been made over the brief, cordial encounter between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa ahead of UFC 253.
The pair met in a hotel hallway earlier this week, and engaged in a bit of small talk. Adesanya pointed out that Costa looked to have slimmed down. The exchange lasted only moments. Yet afterward, Adesanya was quick to label Costa insecure, stating he and his manager “giggled like little girls” and said that Costa was like a barking dog behind a fence — that didn’t back it up in person.
“He was very kind, very educated, so that surprised me,” Costa said during this week’s UFC 253 media day, in response to Adesanya’s comments. “I don’t know why he changed a lot.”
It’s clear from the video that both Adesanya and Costa remained professional. Which is generally a nice change from most “fighter hotel encounters” you see posted online. What changed, then, becomes the question.
“I don’t know. I’d like to ask him what happened there, why,” admitted Costa. As the Brazilian noted and the video shows, Adesanya shook his hand, and even asked him how he was feeling. “I’d like to know. Maybe he was doing a fake move.”
Ultimately, Costa stated that he didn’t learn anything from the encounter. “I just think he’s fake. He’s a good actor, or he’s a fake guy.”
“He showed he’s a different guy, different person,” added Costa. “If he’s this kind of people, it’s okay.”
It doesn’t change the fact that the pair will fight Saturday atop the UFC 253 card, with both bringing undefeated records to the octagon — likely for the last time. Costa is 13-0. Adesanya is 19-0. Not much motivation is really needed beyond the middleweight title currently held by “The Last Stylebender.”
As Costa added later, “I’ll be professional, regardless of whether I like him or not.” And when it comes to Adesanya’s strengths, Costa admitted that “he has some good skills. Fast. He’s good on avoiding, countering. He’s faster.”
We’ll know Saturday if Costa has the answer for those qualities.
Watch the full UFC 253 virtual media day interview with Paulo Costa above.