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MMA Notes: Adesanya-Costa is a fight for the ages


Every now and then a fight comes along that makes you feel like all the stars really are aligning at the exact right moment.

Saturday night’s UFC 253 main event between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa is one of those fights.

Two undefeated fighters, both coming off wins over Yoel Romero, both boasting very different styles and both acknowledging that they’ve been on a crash course towards one another since they burst onto the UFC scene.

Things can change quickly in the fight game, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that at this very moment in time it feels as if Saturday night’s fight could establish either Costa or Adesanya as the defining middleweight of their generation.

“I think he knows my potential, my (power), how dangerous I am. Everyone knows,” Costa said at a pre-fight press conference in Abu Dhabi.

In general, Saturday’s main event is being billed as a battle between Costa’s terrifying power and Adesanya’s refined precision and technique. That’s not entirely fair. Both guys have well-rounded arsenals of weapons, but there’s some truth to it.

On a very basic level, you’d expect that Adesanya’s chances of winning will improve the longer the fight goes. His footwork and technical striking should be able to wear Costa down if they go a full five rounds.

Costa, meanwhile, is entirely capable of ending the fight with one good, clean punch.

One of the strangest things about the build-up to Saturday’s matchup, however, has been how much mental energy has been devoted to each fighter’s jiu-jitsu abilities.

It seems incredibly unlikely that the outcome of Saturday’s fight will be determined on the ground, and yet one of the most heated exchanges at their press conference was about jiu-jitsu.

“I’ll berimbolo you if I wanted to,” Adesanya said. “I’ll grab your f—ing collar right now and put you in a bow-and-arrow.”

On Friday, the issue nearly boiled-over when Costa showed up for a staredown with a white belt and proceeded to hand it to Adesanya. The Nigerian-born New Zealand champion didn’t take kindly to that and UFC president Dana White had to step in the middle of the two to prevent a scrum from breaking out.

Sometimes, that sort of bad blood is what sells a fight. It’s not really necessary this time, though. When you’ve got two undefeated fighters who have looked unstoppable, at times, that sells itself.

“It is an important fight, it’s going to be a great showcase,” Adesanya said. “I’m not downplaying the stakes, I feel like for my legacy, it’s just the look, the look of it. People are still fooled by big muscles and think that’s what a fighter looks like.

“Once they see the skinny clown, supposedly, beat the muscle-y buffoon … it’s going to blow their mind.”

IN THE CO-MAIN

It’s strange, really, to have a light-heavyweight title fight on a UFC card that doesn’t include either Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier. Here we are, though.

With Jones vacating the 205 lbs. belt and moving up to heavyweight, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will be fighting for the title.

It’s a great fight between the top two contenders in the division, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

You do get the feeling that Jones’ long shadow will hang over whoever wins for a long time.

But that doesn’t seem to bother Reyes.

“To be completely honest, I could give a s— what anybody says about my belt,” Reyes said at a media scrum with reporters in Abu Dhabi this week. “At the end of the day I’ll have a gold belt and I’ll have the money to match.”

PACQUIAO, APPARENTLY

On Friday morning, Conor McGregor took to Twitter and posted screenshots of some texts with White from earlier in the year, before the pandemic.

They’re worth looking at, but the biggest reveal actually came in a later tweet where McGregor said he’ll be boxing Manny Pacquiao next.

That’s been rumoured for a long time and it’s unclear whether there’s any validity to what McGregor is saying — he does have a contract with the UFC, after all — but the Irishman has enough standing in the fight game that it’s believable that he could make it happen.

McGregor managed to make a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather come together and a matchup with Pacquaio is certainly more likely than that ever seemed.

CORRECTING IT

While Dana White said he didn’t see anything racist in some of Colby Covington’s vile comments after his win over Tyron Woodley last weekend, several of the Black fighters on this weekend’s card were more than happy to call it out.

That included Calgarian Hakeem Dawodu.

“I found them extremely rude, racist,” Dawodu said. “I’m kind of surprised he’s allowed to talk free like that. You know everyone’s allowed to talk freely, but I took offence to it. It’s crazy that it’s comments like that causing more and more of a divide amongst the people.”

Women’s bantamweight contender Sijara Eubanks also commented.

“Let’s be real first and foremost, it wasn’t unfortunate, it was flat-out racist what Colby was saying,” Eubanks said. “It was racist, it was disgusting and quite frankly disappointing, but at the same time, the one thing I do appreciate is the UFC lets whoever say whatever. They have never muzzled the fighters. If you walk to talk (or) don’t want to talk. If you want to be political (or) you don’t want to be political. I have to appreciate that the company lets us say what we want.”

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