Contender
Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie for USA TODAY Sports

Recently, it’s been a strange, winding road to a UFC return for hulking middleweight Paulo Costa.

The rising star was set to face former title contender Yoel Romero at last November’s UFC 230. But the fight fell by the wayside when Romero needed more time to heal from facial injuries from his last fight. Then, Costa was reportedly prevented from being licensed by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) anyway due to an issue with a stomach medication he took.

That’s left ‘Borrachinha’ out of action since last July’s UFC 226. While the whole situation is a confusing one full of twists and turns, he’s apparently ready to fight again. Speaking on today’s episode of ‘Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show,’ Costa said he’s still targeting a fight with Romero. He just doesn’t think the Cuban will accept.

“Yeah, I’m ready to fight in May, or June, or July. But I want to fight very soon as possible. And I’d like to fight against Romero. But man, Romero doesn’t want to fight against nobody. Because he’s number one. He’ll sit there and wait there for I don’t know what. I don’t know what’s happening in his mind. He need fight. He’s 40 year old, and he’s not fight against nobody. I don’t understand what’s happening in his mind.”

Another Fight With Romero?

Costa was asked by Helwani if the UFC had offered him a future match-up with Romero. He said they had, but it was for this upcoming weekend’s card in Florida, again creating that confusing timeline.

“Yes, on 27th of April. And I accept and I sign my contract. And, not happening.”

Most thought Costa was unable to fight on the card due to his issues with the NYSAC, yet he claimed that apparently was not true. When Romero pulled out of his replacement main event at UFC Ft. Lauderdale, Costa was tabbed as a replacement. He wasn’t sure what happened with Romero. He just couldn’t cut 40 pounds in 20 days to make the fight:

“Man, I don’t know exactly what happened. And UFC call me to fight Jacare, but short time, I cannot lost too much weight. The kilos, is like 20 kilos in 20 days – it’s crazy.”

USADA Stories Not True

Romero previously claimed Costa had failed a USADA drug test, a claim which he then walked back. Costa clarified that, claiming Romero was a ‘bad guy.’ He said he never used steroids or anything to cheat the game:

“It’s not true. Romero is a bad guy. He put this story in the air. But it’s not true. I never use steroids in my life, I never use anything to cheat the game. I feel badly in my stomach. Stomach ache. I use medication, is normal, is not to encourage performance. But I cannot speak a lot about this while the commission, I need to wait for New York Commission to close the case.”

There was confusion about whether or not Costa can actually fight because he said he needed to wait for the NYSAC to close it before commenting. His coach Eric Albarracin clarified he would be back soon:

“They’re going to resolve the case and he’ll be back in no time.”

Free To Fight?

Costa kept the confusion rolling, however, when he said he was free to fight while simultaneously claiming the case was yet to be closed. The first time his bout with Romero was canceled was due to his opponent’s injury:

“No, I’m free to fight. November, this fight was postponed because Romero broke his face.”

The situation took another turn when Albarracin ‘clarified’ that Costa could have fought on April 27th even though the NYSAC initially said he could not. Somehow he got back in time, but ultimately couldn’t cut the weight required:

“I think what he’s saying is the only time he was penalized was that April 27th, where they said, ‘Hey, we gotta resolve this before we can accept and allow you to accept this fight.’ Then they gave it to Jacare and Romero got hurt. And then he was already back in. But like he said, he had to lose about 40 pounds in 20 days, and the coaches got together and advised, ‘That’s too short of a time.’ Because he was just training to maintain.”

Stomach Issues

Costa expanded on the stomach medication that got him into the issue, noting that he has problems when he cuts weight:

“Sometimes, because I cut a lot of weight, sometimes I not feel good to eat after the weigh-in. I feel nauseous. I cannot eat.”

With the medication seemingly forcing him out of his original April date with Romero supposedly being closed now, Costa said his troubles were nearly over with:

“Of course, of course. It’s almost.”

So Costa and his team say they cannot comment much more on the case but that he could have fought on April 27th had he only been able to cut the weight. It’s a bit contradictory on the surface, adding to an already confusing set of circumstances.

Many fans have accused Costa of trying to game the system, and unclear timelines like this don’t help. He of course says that is far from the truth. Which side are you on?