Just In UFC’s Paulo Costa says stomach medicine reason for withdrawal, bothered by PED rumors MMA Life

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After weeks of speculation, Paulo Costa finally has spoken up about what kept him from a planned UFC on ESPN 3 fight with fellow contender Yoel Romero.

According to the Brazilian middleweight, who’s currently in Las Vegas doing performance tests at the UFC Performance Institute, it was an issue involving the New York Athletic State Commission and a simple medicine he’d taken for his stomach.

Costa detailed the situation in an interview with Combate.com,

“I was called to fight Romero. I signed the contract; he hadn’t signed it,” Costa said. “He’d gone to a reality show, and we were in this indecision of whether he’d be able to fight or not. When he came back from the reality show and was able to sign the contract at last – in the same week he was back, the New York Athletic State Commission asked me to make a statement about a medication I’d taken for my stomach. And then they said, ‘In order for you to answer this, you won’t be able to fight, unfortunately. You’re unfortunately going to be ineligible for this fight because you need to notify to us what it is that you took for your stomach.’

“It was a simple medicine, ‘Plasil’ (used commonly in Brazil for nausea). It’s not doping. It has nothing to do with doping. You take it when you feel some type of stomach discomfort. So because of that – I didn’t understand it, either – they said that I couldn’t fight him, because I had to figure this out first.”

Costa also pointed out the delay in the commission’s move, considering his last fight in New York was in November 2017 – when he beat Johny Hendricks at UFC 217. He’s fought once more since, at UFC 226 in Las Vegas, where he beat Uriah Hall to add another finish to win to his unbeaten record.

The situation was worked out, and Costa (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) was cleared to compete. And then the UFC offered him a chance to stay on the card – this time filling in for Romero (13-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) after illness kept him out of a meeting with Ronaldo Souza.

Costa said he was en route to Las Vegas when he heard about Romero’s withdrawal and said yes without thinking. But then upon arrival he saw the date and, weighing almost 225 pounds at the time, he realized that there just wouldn’t be enough time to prepare and make the weight.

“I wasn’t in camp, I wasn’t doing intense training,” Costa said. “Because I stopped training after knowing I was no longer fighting Yoel. I spent almost a month, basically resting, doing low, light maintenance, in low-intensity. They gave me an opportunity to fight ‘Jacare.’

“I accepted it but for May. But for April 27, it would have been impossible. I can’t lose (40 pounds) and train at high intensity with just 20 days.”

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With no official reason given for Costa’s initial withdrawal, though, speculation began. Romero didn’t exactly help matters when he said he’d heard that issues with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency had kept Costa from the bout. Romero walked it back shortly thereafter, and Costa’s management shot down the accusation, but not everyone was convinced.

Costa, who’s been the target of PED accusations in the past, said there is some damage done by rumors, however unsubstantiated they might be. And he intends to give Romero payback in the cage if the two do end up meeting.

“It’s bad,” Costa said. “Even though it was a false rumor, it creates that ‘smoke,’ like people say. Until people realize it’s not like that at all, maybe it gives a bad image, you get a bad image.

“But there’s nothing to say. Simply none of that happened. I never used any of these artifices, such as doping or anything like that. And USADA is there to prove that. I will hit him with more gusto. I will, for sure. Each strike will have some extra pleasure.”

Still, Costa says he’s not particularly invested in fighting Romero at this point. He just believes that, the way things have panned out atop the 185-pound division, that there’s a likelihood that they’re next.

“I’ll fight anyone,” Costa said. “Anyone who’s better ranked can be my next opponent. But I believe that, since ‘Jacare’ took the fight with (Jack) Hermansson and it will happen on the 27th, then Romero and I will be there to fight. I believe pneumonia is not an injury that requires weeks or months (to recover) from. I believe in a week, two, maybe he’ll be ready to get back to training. So we can fight.

“It could be in May, June. Whenever he’s ready, I can fight in May, in order to lose the weight. I believe if I fight Romero, whomever wins will have their hand at the title shot.”

Costa says he’s already started to get his weight down to around 209 pounds, so that he doesn’t need too much time in advance to accept a bout. After Las Vegas, he’s headed to Phoenix to train with coach Eric Albarracin to be ready to possibly return in two months.

As Costa said, he believes the fight with Romero should put the winner in line for a title shot. But that type of prediction can be tricky; Souza, for instance, reportedly is expecting to finally get his own stab at the title if the beats Hermansson. Costa, for his part, realizes that the division is currently a bit murky and highly competitive. And though he does believe he can get his own chance at UFC gold at some point in 2019, he’s not in a hurry.

“We have a champion who’s awaiting the result of another fight for an interim belt,” Costa said. “So, let’s think: (Kelvin) Gastelum will fight (Israel) Adesanya next Saturday (at UFC 236). Whoever wins will fight (champ Robert) Whitaker, theoretically – that is, if no one gets hurt until then, if Whittaker doesn’t get hurt again. So, anything can happen.

“I intend to fight another two, three times this year. So there is a chance to fight for the title this year. Regardless, those at the top five will end up fighting each other. That’s inevitable. So there’s no need for – I’m not desperate or in a rush to do this title fight. We’ll end up meeting each other among the top five, it’s inevitable. Whether it’s this year, whether it’s next year, it will happen.”

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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