Paulo Costa vs. Robert Whittaker is official as far as the UFC is concerned – the matchup is on the website of the promotion and its TV partner.
But Costa said the bout is not yet official, and he wants a new contract and a raise before he commits to facing the ex-champ on Feb. 12 in Perth, Australia.
“The time for fighting for free has gone,” Costa told Submission Radio in a recent interview. “I love MMA, but I cannot just fight for the love. I have bills to pay.”
The one-time middleweight title challenger hasn’t been fighting for free, of course. But considering his experience, his guaranteed money lags far behind his opposition. At UFC 278, his disclosed show purse was $65,000, or 32 percent of what ex-champ Luke Rockhold was paid for the pay-per-view bout he won via decision. Costa doubled his pay with a win, as do most UFC fighters, and also received a $50,000 bonus for “Fight of the Night.” (The UFC does not disclose additional off-the-books pay.)
Costa said UFC executive Hunter Campbell agreed his pay was low and assured him the promotion would make a new offer during a recent meeting. So far, he said, nothing has materialized.
“I have got this same payment since 2017,” Costa said. “So, it’s crazy. And I have fought the top-five guys and I get money as a beginner. So, [Campbell] agreed. He said, yeah, it’s totally out of date, we need to update this.
“But after that they announced that fight against Robert. But I didn’t see any contract in my mail, on my table. I have nothing yet. I’m just waiting for Hunter to make his offer. Because he said, OK, we’ll make another offer and you see what you think about it.”
Costa clarified that he agreed to face Whittaker and welcomes the fight. A win over the ex-champ could put him back in title contention after losing a bid for the title against then-champ Israel Adesanya. With Adesanya recently dethroned by Alex Pereira, the winner of Costa vs. Whittaker could fight for the belt.
“This fight is one of my favorite fights that I wanted to make,” he said. “Because I appreciate the fighter that Robert is. He’s very good. Since I saw him fight, I thought, I want to fight this guy because he’s savage, you know, he puts a lot of desire in his fights. So, it should be a great fight, and I’d I love to make that fight. It’s one of my favorite fights to make, of course.
“But I don’t have any deal to do this fight. This is the bad part. I want to do this fight, but I don’t have a deal. UFC didn’t send me nothing. No contract, no offer yet. It’s a weird situation. I don’t know what’s going on with the UFC. Because you guys know, the UFC used to publish some fights when the fight is close, when the deal is on. But it’s not in this case. They asked me about Robert, if I should fight him. I said, ‘Yes, of course, it’ll be a pleasure to fight him.’ But they didn’t send any offer to fight him yet.”
Costa said there’s a time limit to how long he will wait for a new UFC offer: two months prior to the Feb. 12 pay-per-view event (which airs on Feb. 11 in the U.S. due to the time difference). The Brazilian said his contract expires in mid-2023 – new UFC contracts have a five-year time limit that is believed to supercede extension clauses – and he could move to boxing if the money isn’t right.
“It depends on the terms,” he said. “We can see a lot of good opportunities in fight sports. We have boxing. Boxing is a great thing coming, you know, going on right now. A lot of big names. So, this makes a lot of sense to me. Because MMA is so hard. You need to train a lot. I used to train six hours. If you put physical therapist, physical therapy session, if you put massage, I spend eight, nine hours out of my home every single day. Do healing, you know, to recover. So, it’s a lot of work. And the payment, at least in my case, is not worth all this work.
“I love MMA. MMA brings me onto here. I’m so grateful. But sometimes you need to pay bills, bro. You need to look out for your future. And the way that my deal is, I think the big mistake of my career was signing that deal in 2017. So long, for so less money. I didn’t sign a smart deal. But it was part of my fault, part of the fault of my manager at that time. So, I’m trying to fix that.”