Paulo Costa: Israel Adesanya knows he’s in trouble at UFC 253 after ‘SportsCenter’ skirmish

Paulo Costa is confident he has middleweight champion Israel Adesanya shook ahead of their highly anticipated clash at UFC 253.

Costa (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) and Adesanya (19-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) went head-to-head for the first time in an interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” where the two poured more fuel on their already heated rivalry.

Although Adesanya has had some spectacular performances en route to the UFC middleweight title, Costa is not willing to let his most recent title defense against Yoel Romero at UFC 248 go unforgotten.

Adesanya (19-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) defeated Romero by unanimous decision in a tactical, but lackluster affair. Romero was also Costa’s most recent opponent, but their fight at UFC 241 saw the Brazilian contender pressure Romero and force him to engage in an entertaining three-round war.

Costa made sure to remind Adesanya of his past performance, while Adesanya countered by flashing the multiple trophies that he claimed for his championship-winning year in 2019.

Costa saw Adesanya’s response as a sign of weakness.

“As you saw, when I gave the opportunity to speak with him directly, he showed how unconfident he is,” Costa told Submission Radio. “He tried to show every time (his trophies) he got. Like, every time he went, ‘Oh, look how good I am.’ He needed to prove to the people, and to himself, that he’s good.

“If you really believe you’re very good, you don’t need to show this kind of stuff. But he froze. And this is what he did when he met a potential competitor, a real competitor like me – like he froze against Romero. He’s used to doing that. He called out Jon Jones to fight. And then when Jon Jones accepted his challenge, he said, ‘no, I’m not prepared yet, I need one or two years to get more weight, to get more muscle to fight Jon Jones’. So, Adesanya, unfortunately he is this kind of guy who freezes when he faces a real competitor.”

Costa has plowed through the competition at 185 pounds using a combination of heavy pressure and knockout power. His approach contrasts markedly with that of Adesanya’s more technical counter-striking style. But Costa says his strength and power advantage will prove decisive on fight night.

“He already knows he’s in trouble. How I can damage him, how I can hit him badly. So, that’s why I think I messed with his mind,” Costa said. “I’m not worried about him. He’s good, he’s fast, quick. But I also know he cannot damage me. He cannot inflict a lot of damage on me because I’m stronger than him, and he’s not the kind of guy who comes with a hard punch, just counter punches. So I’m not worried about him for this fight. But he’s a bunch messed up in his mind for this fight.”

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