Paulo Costa rips Khamzat Chimaev’s performance at UFC 294: ‘This fight made him a little bit smaller than before’

Paulo Costa was not impressed by Khamzat Chimaev’s performance.

This past Saturday, Costa was supposed to face Chimaev in the co-main event of UFC 294, until a nasty staph infection forced him to withdraw from the bout. Instead, former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman stepped in, and Chimaev won a hard-fought decision over his short-notice opponent that left many more impressed by Usman than Chimaev.

Costa is one of them, ripping his would-be rival for barely beating a welterweight who stepped in on short notice. The one-time Brazilian title challenger suggested the fight exposed Chimaev.

“Kamaru did his best, in the circumstances,” Costa said on The MMA Hour. “First of all, he’s a welterweight, not a middleweight. He was quite smaller than a legit middleweight. But he’s a good welterweight. But he was 10 days, short notice, and he flew here, to Abu Dhabi. We know it’s different time, and maybe you take a few days to get here, depends from where you come. So basically he had seven days to train for this fight. I think he did what he could do, but if he could be a little bit more himself, he could get a win in this fight. I was talking with his coach, and I was like, ‘He needs to push.’ For sure, the first round, he lost, but I think he won the second and the third. In my opinion, if you put 10-8 for Gourmet Chen Chen in the first, it’s at least a draw. But it is what it is.

“I think this fight makes Chimaev smaller than he was before. Actually, the people have a lot of hype on him, but I just realized it’s more about boys and kids. It’s not the hardcore fan base of MMA. Because the people don’t think he’s ready. Maybe he has potential, but he’s not ready for big fights, for superfights. Kamaru, with a full camp, smokes him.

“I think these guys who support him, who are so fanatical, are just kids who see in him, Western guy who can represent them and their weakness. It’s a kind of nerd. Like in the cartoons, ‘Oh, this is my hero.’ But for you who are long time in this sport, you have seen everything already, and I’m pretty sure you can recognize when a guy is ready for big things or not, and I don’t believe he’s ready right now.

“So I think this fight made him a little bit smaller than before. And actually, the fight against Gilbert [Burns] showed the same thing.”

“I don’t think this is legit,” Costa said. “He didn’t beat a top middleweight yet. He didn’t make great things in welterweight either, so why? My point is just, why? I think he should fight a legit middleweight. Me.

“I don’t know. To be honest, can I be honest? I think Dana White said about that, the next one will be in line for the title, just to hype this event. To not let the expectations of the people be low. So when he says the winner fights for the title next, the people will be like, ‘Oh! Let’s see!’ It’s a strategy to sell. But Dana White is smart. He’s running the show very, very well. He knows what will be better for the business and for the division. I believe a lot in what he’s going to do, and I truly believe he’s going to book my fight against him.”

Costa and Chimaev’s rivalry dates back to 2022, when the two had a near altercation just days ahead of UFC 279. Since then, Costa has repeatedly taken shots at Chimaev, setting up an eventual fight.

Now, though, Costa admits to being a little less interested than before.

“I really want [to fight Chimaev],” he said. “I’m a little bit less excited to fight him after Saturday, because he showed a lot of holes in his game. So immature, going hard, he just rushed too much in the first [round] and he wasn’t there anymore in the second, in the third. So gassed. This is a beginner mistake. I remember when I had four fights, I was like that. I just rushed with everything that I had, and then my soul just goes out of my body and I was tired as hell. He’s doing the same right now. This is so immature. Everybody knows if Usman had two more rounds, he’s going to finish him or win the fight…

“But he’s the fight that I want. If not, that’s okay. We have [Robert] Whittaker, we have [Dricus] du Plessis, [Jared] Cannonier. I don’t know.”

Costa is still recovering from the staph infection in his elbow, but he expects to be back to training soon and ready to fight in December, if possible. If Chimaev is ready to answer the call and make that quick of a turnaround, he Costa has a simple message for him.

“Don’t be afraid,” Costa said. “The guy has run away from this fight the whole year. The UFC was planning to do this fight. They told me about this fight around January. I just said, ‘It’s so long without a fight. Why do you wait until October to fight Gourmet Chen Chen?’ They said, ‘No. no. I don’t want you to fight before because injury and we lost this match.’ I said, OK. We’ll wait to do this fight. But even in August, Gourmet Chen Chen was trying to find other people to fight. Not me. He never wanted to fight me. Neither him, any of his coaches, his manager. Only the UFC pushed for him to accept. He had no other position.

“So what’s my message for him? Let’s fight! Don’t be afraid. He’s an insecure man. He tries to look like ‘No fear’ and this s***, but he’s soft. He was crying, ‘I broke my hand!’ I broke my hand as well, against Luke. Did you see me cry about my hand?”

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