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Paulo Costa: ‘Gentle’ Israel Adesanya changed personality at UFC 253 fight week run-in

ABU DHABI – Paulo Costa thinks Israel Adesanya went into his shell during their much-discussed face-to-face encounter to kick off UFC 253 fight week.

Saturday’s middleweight title headliner has been promoted as a heated grudge, with Costa (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) and Adesanya (19-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) spending the past several months taking shots at one another. When they ran into each other on camera to kick off fight week in Abu Dhabi, though, they were extremely civil.

Costa said he was surprised by the interaction, and said Adesanya changed the way he’s historically acted toward him when they saw each other in person.

“He changes a lot his personality, his persona,” Costa told reporters, including MMA Junkie, during Wednesday’s UFC 253 media day. “The Adesanya that I saw on the video conference was very disrespectful guy. He show his fingers a lot to me. When I met him upstairs he was very kind, very gentle. When I saw him I was ready for a different kind of guy. He came and he gave his hand to shake his hand and asked how I’m feeling.”

UFC 253 takes place Saturday at Flash Forum at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN+.

Costa vs. Adesanya is a highly unique title fight in that it’s just the second time in UFC history that two undefeated male athletes will clash for a belt. The previous time came back at UFC 98 in May 2009, when challenger Lyoto Machida ended Rashad Evans’ reign with a vicious knockout.

There’s hope from Costa that he will take the belt in a similar way. He knows Adesanya is a diverse fighter and dangerous in a lot of different areas, but the Brazilian thinks he poses the bigger threat. He said he’s going to aggressive, yet smart, when they step inside the octagon, and Costa feels he has the right strategy to become the new champion.

“He’s a counter (striker),” Costa said. “Everybody saw when he fought (Yoel) Romero. If one guy don’t push him he will not push. I will try to push him, to bring him to the fight. But if he tries to avoid the fight, I will not chase him all the time. I will go back to the middle and cut the angles and try to make the fight happen.”

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