Paulo Costa was booked to headline UFC Fort Lauderdale against Yoel Romero, but his subsequent removal from the April 27 card was never really explained.
Romero told ESPN a month ago that he had been informed that Costa was pulled from the card because a USADA drug test came back with a positive result. At the time, Costa and his manager Wallid Ismail denied ever using any banned substance, but declined to clarify the real reason why he was out of the fight.
A month later, “Borrachinha” told Brazilian website Combate that a stomach medication he used in 2017 forced him out of the UFC Fort Lauderdale main event.
“[Romero] came back from a reality show and could finally sign the contract,” Costa told Combate. “(But) on the same week the New York Athletic Commission asked me to talk about a stomach medication I had used. And they said: ‘For you to talk about this, unfortunately you won’t be able to fight. You will be ineligible for this fight because you have to notify us about what you used for your stomach.’ It was a simple medication, Plasil. That’s not doping. You take it when you have stomach pain. So, because of that, I didn’t understand it too, but they said I couldn’t fight, that I had to figure this out first.”
Costa competed in New York only once in the past, knocking out Johny Hendricks at UFC 217 in November 2017. The Brazilian middleweight fought eight months later in Las Vegas, defeating Uriah Hall at UFC 226, but “didn’t understand” why the NYSAC came to question him more than a year after the fact.
MMA Fighting reached out to the NYSAC about Costa’s comments. Lee Park, a spokesperson for the commission’s parent governmental body, the New York State Department of State, wrote in an e-mail that the NYSAC did not pull the plug on Costa’s UFC Fort Lauderdale fight, but that Costa “has been fined, not suspended, by the Commission.” The Brazilian is also “not presently licensed” by the NYSAC. According to Park, Costa has not yet paid the fine, which was for $9,333.33.
Asked if the stomach medicine Plasil is the reason why Costa was under investigation, Park responded that “evidence received and reviewed by the Commission conclusively showed that Mr. Costa failed to comply with Commission rules and policies regarding the use and disclosure of non-performance enhancing substances while licensed.”
According to codes, rules, and regulations of the state of New York, “the Commission shall have the authority to inquire into the affairs of licensees, permit holders and other authorized persons or entities, and into any matter which may affect combative sports or professional wrestling in New York in its discretion and without limitations. Licensees, permit holders, and otherwise authorized persons or entities shall cooperate fully with inquiries by the Commission.”
A video surfaced in October 2018 that appeared to show Costa being administered an IV, which is a prohibited method — regardless of what medication he was taking — by USADA and the NYSAC. Park would not comment on the exact reason for the violation and fine.
It remains unclear whether or not Costa is being probed by USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner. USADA does not comment on open investigations and would not confirm nor deny if Costa is currently being investigated. The agency will only release information after the conclusion of the investigation and adjudication process.
Ronaldo Souza had stepped in to replace Costa and rematch Romero later this month in Florida, however Romero was ultimately removed from the card due to pneumonia. Jack Hermansson then agreed to face “Jacare” on short notice, but Costa says he was offered the fight first.
“And now, 20 days before the fight, everything was cleared and they said I was cleared to fight,” Costa said to Combate. “But they only gave me 20 days (to prepare) and I wasn’t in camp, I wasn’t training hard because I stopped training when I knew I wouldn’t fight Romero. I was basically resting for a month, doing light training. They called me to fight in 20 days, gave me the opportunity to fight ‘Jacare’. I accepted it, but for May. It would be impossible (to fight on) April 27. I can’t cut 18kg (39.6 pounds) and train in high intensity in 20 days.”
Costa said he’s willing to fight Romero “in May, June, July, whenever he’s ready.” He also criticized Romero for claiming he had failed a drug test.
“Yes, it’s bad,” Costa said to Combate. “Despite being a false rumor, it creates that smoke. Until people realize it’s nothing, it gives people a bad image. However, there’s nothing else to say. Never really happened. I never used anything, no type of doping, anything. And USADA is here to prove it. But I’ll enjoy more beating him up now. Yeah, I will. Every strike will definitely bring more pleasure.”