Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa has been billed a striker’s delight, but should the fight end up going to the ground, both men are eager to show their stuff.
At least that’s the case if their back-and-forth chatter at Thursday’s UFC 253 pre-fight press conference is any indication. Adesanya defends his middleweight title against Costa in Saturday’s main event and while both are known for their stunning knockouts and standup games, it became personal when the topic of grappling was raised.
“Before I become a striker I was a grappler,” Costa said. “I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu, my brother’s gym, my coach. I have a lot of knowledge on BJJ. Yes, this fight can be on the ground also.”
Adesanya interjected, criticizing Costa for a loss that he had competing in an exhibition bout on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 six years ago. “Borrachinha” bowed out of the reality show’s middleweight tournament after dropping a split decision to Marcio Alexandre Jr. in the quarter-finals.
“You sucked as grappler,” Adesanya said. “Whenever he shoots, he loses his gas tank within the first or second shot.”
“You never saw my grappling,” Costa replied.
“No one needs to see your grappling because you suck,” Adesanya continued. “You were on TUF on the floor saying, ‘No, I gave my all. I give 100 percent.’ You can’t grapple for sh*t.”
In 33 combined pro bouts between Adesanya and Costa—all wins—there is only one submission to be found, with Costa scoring a rear-naked choke submission win over Eduardo Ramon at a Jungle Fight show in May 2016. Nevertheless, the headliners continued to bicker over who could make the other tap.
When Costa questioned Adesanya’s fundamentals, “The Last Stylebender” threatened to submit Costa with a variety of exotic holds.
“Bullsh*t,” Costa said. “You’re a blue belt in jiu-jitsu. You cannot say nothing about jiu-jitsu. You’re like a kid in in jiu-jitsu. You don’t know how to do an armlock.”
“I’ll berimbolo you if I wanted to,” Adesanya said. “I’ll grab your f*cking collar right now and put you in a bow-and-arrow.”
“You never put a gi on your skinny body,” Costa said. “Talk about jiu-jitsu with me. You’re crazy.”
Adesanya closed out the exchange, joking “I take acai too.”