LAS VEGAS – If Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 196 headliner is still going to happen, it doesn’t seem it will be at middleweight.
Brazilian contender Paulo Costa today confirmed that he isn’t within striking distance of the 186-pound non-title limit and will need for opponent Marvin Vettori to agree to a catchweight in order to compete at this weekend’s event.
“I think this fight will happen – it just will not happen if he does not want to fight me,” Costa told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s media day. “Maybe we can do a catchweight. Ninety kilos (approximately 198 pounds), maybe. I think making this fight (at a catchweight) could be more exciting to the fans – more explosive fight because I want to go bring the fight for him. Maybe he wants to bring the fight to me. So, I think with both guys heavy, this knockout can happen easily.”
Costa (13-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and Vettori (17-4-1 MMA, 7-3-1 UFC) are scheduled to meet in the main event of UFC Fight Night 196, which streams live on ESPN+ from the UFC Apex.
Earlier in the media day session, Vettori had warned of Costa’s potential weight struggles, and the Brazilian admitted he was 96 kilos (approximately 212 pounds) as he sat down to address the media and that hitting the middleweight limit was simply not going to be possible. He also said his manager, Wallid Ismail, was already in contact with Vettori’s team about the need to make a change.
“It’s not on the schedule to make 185 anymore,” Costa said. “It’s another weight above that, but I’m not exactly sure which weight yet.”
As for the reason why he’s currently struggling to make weight, Costa was a little less forthcoming.
“I will tell after the fight,” Costa said with a smile.
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Vettori previously indicated he was willing to take the matchup at any weight, including all the way up to 205 pounds. However, there will certainly be some discussion about financial penalties paid to Vettori for the privilege of the change. If an agreement can be made, the fight is a big one between two fighters who have proven themselves to be in the upper echelon of the 185-pound division with Costa checking in at No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie middleweight rankings, and Vettori just behind at No. 7.
Costa said he hasn’t spent much time really breaking down his opponent but believes if he focuses on his own game, victory is guaranteed.
“I really don’t think about (Vettori’s style),” Costa said. “I even don’t watch his fights and his style to study him, to study his movement. I just focus on me. I know he sometimes goes to striking, sometimes he’s grappling. I’m prepared for all situations.”
Vettori’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, was not immediately available for comment, and promotion officials have yet to announce any changes to the bout’s status. So now, we wait word of an agreement.
While it seems a potential career setback for Costa, he doesn’t believe his time at 185 pounds is done and thinks he’ll challenge again for the belt in the near future rather than move up to 205 pounds.
“I can fight at light heavyweight, but I think it’s not the moment,” Costa said. “I can fight for the title again and take the belt.”