Paulo Costa wants ‘dream fight’ against Khamzat Chimaev for UFC middleweight title

Even though he’s next scheduled to face Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa still has his sights set on Khamzat Chimaev.

Costa and Chimaev have a long-running feud that was supposed to get settled at UFC 294. However, Costa was forced off that card due to injury, and instead, Chimaev took on former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, winning by decision.

Costa is now set to face Whittaker at UFC 298, and speaking with The MMA Hour, “Borrachinha” explained why he’s facing the ex-champ instead of Chimaev.

“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.”

Costa and Chimaev have publicly feuded for over a year, dating back to an altercation between the two ahead of UFC 279. Costa and Whittaker have also been linked as possible opponents for several years, with the pair booked on two previous occasions. Now, the two will finally square off, and Costa believes that if he wins, a title shot could be next.

“We never know, but I’m supposed be the No. 1 contender,” Costa said of the stakes for this matchup. “Either me or Whittaker, whoever wins, I think. Whittaker is coming off a loss, but I think this is an interesting fight, and the situation at middleweight right now is to decide who is going to be next in line.”

In 2020, Costa fought for the middleweight title, coming up short against Israel Adesanya at UFC 253. If he is correct this time around, he will face the winner of the Sean StricklandDricus du Plessis matchup, which takes place on Jan. 20 at UFC 297. And if he wins the title, there’s only one fight he wants for his first title defense: Chimaev.

“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.”

First things first, though, Costa has to get past Whittaker at UFC 298. As he is with Chimaev, “Borrachinha” is supremely confident the former middleweight champion is but a stepping stone for his dreams.

“I think I’m going to catch him, punches or kicks, I don’t know,” Costa said. “But I have a feeling I’m going to get him on some movement that he cannot see, and he’s going to sleep.”

UFC 298 takes place on Feb. 17 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. It’s set to be headlined by a featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Ilia Topuria.

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