SALT LAKE CITY – Paulo Costa was quite excited early on Friday, well before stepping into the cage with Luke Rockhold.
After Costa put on weight for UFC 278 in Salt Lake City during the official weigh-ins, he went on a short, vigorous diatribe in front of the UFC officials and media in attendance at the host hotel in Salt Lake City.
Costa said a representative of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the UFC’s drug testing partner, showed up in his hotel room early in the morning while he was losing weight in preparation for his trip to the scales a few hours later. . Not only did they come to get a sample from him at a time when many fighters are dehydrated and cutting off their last pounds, but he said their test included a blood draw.
Costa’s complaint about USADA’s timing is not new among combatants. The agency requires the UFC’s fighters to be aware of where they will be, allowing representatives to show up unannounced for random drug tests. That strategy is meant to deter any fighter considering breaking the rules, but it’s also ruffled a lot of feathers when the timing is bad.
UFC President Dana White was unhappy with the way USADA handled Costa’s drug test early Friday, saying he spoke to him about it during the ceremonial weigh-ins.
“I apologized to (Costa) on the podium. That will never happen to a fighter again,” White said at his UFC 278 post-event press conference. “(USADA representatives) don’t know about fighting the way people who know fighting know about fighting. You’re not going to test a guy at 6am when he’s losing weight. The result will be the same a few hours later. You wait. I apologized on stage when he came out, and that won’t happen again with another fighter.”
Costa (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) outlasted Rockhold (16-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) for a unanimous scorecard decision in the co-main event at Vivint Arena. Rockhold was a bloody mess after the fight, saying in an in-cage interview with Joe Rogan that it was probably his last fight. Costa and Rockhold each received $50,000 in bonuses for Fight of the Night.
The win was crucial for Brazil’s Costa, who made a two-fight slip. Nearly two years ago at UFC 253, he was knocked out by Israel Adesanya in a middleweight title fight for the first loss of his career. On his return more than a year later, unable to reach the middleweight limit on the scale, he requested a fight week change to light heavyweight against Marvin Vettori, who then defeated him by unanimous decision.
Costa said after his win over Rockhold that his UFC contract will expire after UFC 278 or will expire soon. A third consecutive defeat could have knocked him off promotion. But with the win, White said he wants to see the 31-year-old back in the UFC.
“(I have) nothing but respect for both of those guys tonight. Of course we want to draw again (Costa). We’ll see what happens.”
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