Paulo Costa determined to make ‘Dream Fight’ against Khamzat Chimaev a reality: ‘It Has to Happen’

Paulo Costa and Khamzat Chimaev

Though he’s already scheduled for a scrap with Robert Whittaker on February 17, Paulo Costa has high hopes that he’ll share the Octagon with Khamzat Chimaev in 2024.

Costa and Chimaev have been looking to settle their rivalry inside the cage for some time. They nearly did just that in October when they were scheduled to square off as part of the promotion’s return to Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, Costa was forced to withdraw from the contest after developing an infection in his elbow that required multiple surgeries to repair.

Chimaev went on to earn a majority decision against late-notice replacement Kamaru Usman while Costa has moved on to a meeting with Robert Whittaker, scheduled for UFC 298 next month.

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Appearing on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, ‘The Eraser’ shared some insight as to why he opted to accept a fight with Whittaker rather than attempting to rebook his long-awaited meeting with the undefeated Chechen monster.

“I was trying to fight Gourmet Chen Chen — Chimaev,” Costa said. “I was trying. Since I could not fight, and he fought against Kamaru — he won, but he didn’t convince anyone I don’t think, me and the people I talk with, at least, and most of the fans I don’t think. I was not convinced he’s the guy, No. 1 contender. So I keep trying that fight, pushing for that fight. ‘OK guys, let’s make this fight happen,’ and what Hunter and the UFC guys said he’s not going to fight until June or July or something like that. …

“So then I needed to move. They said, ‘We have Whittaker.’ I said OK, let’s go” (h/t MMA Fighting).

Though he has an incredibly tough test against ‘The Reaper’ closing in, Paulo Costa still has his sights firmly set on throwing hands with Chimaev, preferably with the UFC middleweight title up for grabs.

“My dream fight is for the belt against Chen Chen,” Costa said. “I have no question about one fight, one matchup against Chimaev. I can bet everything on me. I’m so confident in that fight.

“This should happen, it has to happen. But they cannot force [him]. You don’t know how much everybody from the UFC forced, they actually forced Khamzat to fight me in Abu Dhabi. He [turned is down] three times last year. They put him in the corner and said, ‘OK, so you’re going to fight no one if you don’t fight Paulo.’ They made him a very good contract, like $2 million, to sign this deal. But Allah saved him. God saved him, just for now.”

Costa’s return to the Octagon will be his first fight since a bizarrely entertaining tussle with former middleweight titleholder Luke Rockhold in August 2022. Since then, Costa has seen three fights fall through for varying reasons.

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Here’s to hoping that we’ll actually see ‘Borrachinha’ make the walk in a few short weeks.