Fight week in Las Vegas is usually a relatively straightforward affair. The fighters check in early in the week, then those featured at the sharp end of the fight card are made available for virtual and in-person media day sessions. Then, following their interviews, the serious business of making weight begins.
The fighters are often tapering down their weight from the moment they arrive for fight week. But the 24 hours before the official early morning weigh-ins are where the athletes face their first major opponent of their assignment – the weight cut.
Cutting weight is a long-established practice as fighters look to shed any remaining water weight in order to hit their contracted mark before gradually rehydrating themselves back toward their optimal fighting weight for fight night.
But, for Brazilian middleweight contender and former title challenger Paulo Costa, it seems cutting weight was more of an issue than usual.
Costa is a big middleweight, who likely cuts a significant amount of weight to make the non-title limit of 186 pounds. But, as he chatted with the media during fight week ahead of his main event bout with Marvin Vettori at UFC Fight Night 196, he seemed unconcerned with the contracted 186-pound limit.
Speaking to the media two days before the weigh-ins, Costa admitted he weighed 96 kilos (around 212 pounds) and that attempted to suggest that he wouldn’t fight at 186 pounds, and that if Vettori didn’t agree to a fight at a more comfortable weight class, it was because the Italian didn’t want to face him.
“I think this fight will happen (but) it just will not happen if he does not want to fight me,” he stated.
“Maybe we can do a catchweight. Ninety kilos (around 198 pounds) maybe. I think making this (catchweight) fight could be more exciting to the fans, (a) more explosive fight, because I want to go (and) bring the fight (to) him.
“Maybe he wants to bring the fight to me. So, I think with both guys heavy, this knockout can happen easily.”
Vettori, unsurprisingly, wasn’t too impressed with Costa’s stance, but nonetheless said he intended to carry on and fulfil the fight booking, though he insisted on a catchweight of 195 pounds. That stipulation was subsequently agreed, with Costa also fined 20% of his purse, which will go to Vettori.
But, despite the situation seemingly being resolved, there was another twist when, just hours before the fighters were due to step onto the scale, Costa informed UFC officials that even the newly-agreed mark would be unachievable, and Vettori was asked to accept a fight at the weight class Costa appeared to want all along, 205 pounds.
Vettori once again agreed, and explained the situation via an Instagram video.
“Basically, I came in, ready to make weight, ready to make 185 as always,” he began.
“I came in and, a little bit after, they told me Costa is overweight.
“First, they wanted to do 190, and 190 wasn’t enough, so 195, then 198, and then 198 was good for a while. We signed a contract for 195 and then he says 195, he can’t make it. So we’re up to 205.
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“I’m making sure I’m gonna give a fight to all the fans Saturday night, and I won’t let this guy get away with it.
“So, I accepted the fight and we’re gonna f*****g do it. We’re gonna slap this motherf****r, you know. We’re gonna f*****g beat him.
“It’s right for me to do it for all of us and for all the fighters who actually struggle to make weight. It was very disrespectful from his side to come in 30 pounds heavier and I’m ready, man, Let’s go!”
Costa subsequently stepped on the scale and, seemingly without any apology or remorse for his approach to fight week, made the light heavyweight mark, tipping the scales at 204.5 pounds. Vettori, for his part, came in half a pound lighter, at 204 pounds.
One-half of your main event LOCKED 🔒 @BorrachinhaMMA
— UFC (@ufc) October 22, 2021
The Italian Dream makes it OFFICIAL 💪 @MarvinVettori
— UFC (@ufc) October 22, 2021
The tension between the pair was there for all to see at the fighter faceoffs, as Vettori flipped the bird at a grinning Costa and continued to throw insults at the Brazilian until security intervened to ensure tempers didn’t boil over a day too early.
It’s clear that Costa and Vettori have a score to settle on fight night, and the tension level will be turned up to the max by the time the fighters make their walk to the octagon for Saturday night’s main event.