The saga over whether Paulo Costa can face Kamzat Chimaev on October 21 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, came to an end on Wednesday afternoon when Costa was declared unwell and the former welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman steps up to fill the void.
UFC CEO Dana White announced the change on social media.
White told Yahoo Sports that the fight between Usman and Chimaev will take place at middleweight, with the winner receiving the next middleweight title shot. The Chimaev-Costa fight was originally going to be a middleweight bout, with Usman hoping to move up after losing back-to-back welterweight title fights to Leon Edwards.
Costa had surgery on his right elbow due to bursitis and was deemed unfit to play in such a close match. Usman is also in the mix, having not fought since losing to Edwards in London on March 18.
This match will pit Chimaev, ranked fourth in the UFC welterweight division, against Usman, ranked seventh in the UFC by weight. The main event pits No. 2 Alex Volkanovski against No. 3 Islam Makhachev for the welterweight title on the card. Three of the top seven boxers in the world. Chimaev is ranked fifth in the Yahoo Sports rankings, with Volkanovski ranked second and Usman seventh.
Usman is a wrestler like Chimaev, while Costa is known as a power striker. White believes the change will make the game better.
“Who knows how they’re going to respond, but you have to think that in a fight with Costa, Kamzat might have to think about going out and knocking him out,” White told Yahoo Sports. “But for Usman and his wrestling, this could actually turn into a stand-up fight.”
Chimaev is a knockout machine, but Usman’s knockout defense is 97.3, the best in UFC history.
White combined Makhachev-Volkanovski after Charles Oliveira exited with a cut issue, then Chimaev-Usman after Costa’s issue Together, White was in a good mood.
He was more ecstatic than usual when discussing the main and sub-fighters.
“This is what fighting should be like,” White said. “I don’t know if you saw what (former lightweight champion) Khabib (Nurmagomedov) said. He said, ‘Man, we’re UFC champions. If King Kong makes weight, you can Fight him.'” That’s what makes fighting so fun. They all go into these fights over a week’s time, and they all accept the risk. They believe in themselves. In my opinion, that’s what makes this sport so great, when you have a world champion or a top five player in the world, that’s their mentality.
“In situations like this, there’s no better sport in the world. That’s what makes the UFC so great, the mentality of these fighters.”