Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa are getting the chance to take their feud to the next level.
With their UFC 253 main event clash a little over a month away, Adesanya and Costa appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter to engage in a less than civil debate in the build-up for the fight.
The tete-a-tete began with host Michael Eaves asking the fighters to recall the beginning of their feud and it was the middleweight champion who spoke up first.
“Let’s rewind,” Adesanya said. “Go back to The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale. That’s when I fought Brad Tavares in the ‘smaller cage’ everyone’s been talking about. The next night [at UFC 226], (Costa) fought Uriah Hall and he did alright, had a TKO stoppage. Then I saw him backstage while I was doing my interview with ESPN and he wouldn’t make eye contact with me. He just kept on staring at the wall about five feet away from me, just literally looking at the wall … and that interview’s on YouTube. You can look it up.
“He literally just found something more interesting on the wall than to confront me, because he was talking all this (expletive). Trying to say like, ‘Oh, I don’t know who this guy is. Who’s this Israel guy?’ You know who the (expletive) I am now, I’m the champ.”
Costa saw their early interactions in a different light.
“I don’t remember that part, but I remember I saw you walking there in the hall of the hotel and thought this guy works for Cirque du Soleil because he’s so skinny, he doesn’t look like a fighter,” Costa said. “But after that the people told me you fought one day before me, I think. But I really didn’t know who you are.”
Adesanya and Costa spent much of Friday’s interview talking over one another, with Adesanya sprinkling in plenty of expletives, but there were several clear exchanges of dialogue. Costa explained why he appeared to attempt to enter the cage after Adesanya won the middleweight title against Robert Whittaker in Melbourne, Australia, last October.
“I was there because it’s easy to call out some guy 20, 30 meters of distance,” Costa said. “And when he showed his [middle] fingers to me. I tried to go inside there, but the people don’t let me go there.”
“You’re not doing (expletive) in that moment because security’s gonna stop you,” Adesanya replied. “You have to just sit there. Even you were the one saying, ‘Robert is gonna win. I think Robert’s gonna win.’ Tell me how Robert won. Tell me how Robert won. You say the same (expletive) that everyone’s been saying, you’re not the first one to say it, and you won’t be the last.”
“I will face you very, very soon and then I will have an opportunity to show you what I tried to show in that moment,” Costa said. “No problem.”
Asked why there appeared to be real animosity between the two fighters, Costa said that Adesanya has a “disrespectful” attitude that he doesn’t believe fans are interested in. He also criticized Adesanya’s most recent performance against Yoel Romero, to which Adesanya countered by showing off a 2019 Fight of the Year award that he won for his UFC 236 battle with Kelvin Gastelum.
“That’s just one,” Adesanya said. “I’ve got many, but that’s just one. I am a fighter. When someone brings the fight, I (expletive) fight. And you said you’re going to bring the fight, right? Cool, bring that (expletive), I’ll show you what I’m about.”
“He’s dumb. He’s dumb and he walks forward and he throws shots,” Adesanya continued when asked why fans should look forward to their fight. “That’s what makes it really exciting and that’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to this big, inflated ignoramus running up on me trying to throw shots as I keep moving and sticking him.”
At one point, as Adesanya suggested that Costa might fade in the later rounds, he was interrupted by Costa showing off his bare chest. That prompted Adesanya to shout, “Put your tits away, this is ESPN! Mickey Mouse don’t want to see that (expletive).”
The interview ended with the fighters being asked to speak of the other’s positive qualities, though even in this they managed to sneak in a few parting shots.
“I really think he has good skills,” Costa said. “His best skill is running away, avoiding the fight. He’s very good on that. Very good when he wants to do that. I try to ask him why he just stood when he faced Romero.
“The only thing more disturbing than his hair was his fight against Romero.”
“The only people he ever beat that are worthy of anything are two guys that are ranked, Uriah Hall and Romero,” Adesanya said. “Who else has he beat that’s ranked? I can list you four guys that I have.
“You have to understand there’s levels to this. Like I said, he’s dumb, but that’s what makes him dangerous as well because he’s not scared to walk forward and just throw. And he’s strong. But the same thing happens when they step in the cage with me. When they see me and they feel me, they say, “Oh my God, he’s a long stronger than I thought. Oh my Lord, he’s a lot bigger than I thought.” Everybody says the same thing when they’re trying to face me, so this was nothing different. The frame rate will be a lot different in this fight.”
Check out the full SportsCenter interview with Adesanya and Costa ahead of their fight at UFC 253 on Sept. 26.