Paulo Costa had been calling out some of the biggest names in the middleweight division after signing a lucrative new deal with the promotion earlier this year, but instead he’s been booked to fight a relatively unheralded but dangerous opponent in Ikram Aliskerov at UFC 291 on July 29th in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The 30-year-old Aliskerov might not be as known as the likes of Khamzat Chimaev, Sean Strickland, Jan Blachowicz and others who Costa had been claiming he wanted to fight, but the former Combat Sambo world champion and Contender Series recruit from Dagestan is considered a serious prospect by many, already holding a 14-1 career record and having earned a first round KO victory over Phil Hawes just the other week at UFC 288 in his promotional debut.
The last few years haven’t gone smoothly for the 32-year-old Costa since his unbeaten 13-0 record came to an abrupt end via a second round TKO loss to Israel Adesanya in their title clash in 2020.
After pulling out of a couple of fights Costa would then go on to fight Marvin Vettori, and was widely criticized for unapologetically forcing the match-up to be switched to 205lbs due to his inability to make weight during fight week, and still went on to lose by unanimous decision.
Costa has since picked up a decision win over Luke Rockhold last August in a bizarre fight in which his opponent was returning from a long layoff and ran out of gas by the end of the first round, yet somehow still survived until the end of the fight.
Despite all this and a public feud with the UFC over the terms of a new deal, the promotion did eventually re-sign him to a bumper new contract, giving an indication that they still believe the Brazilian star can turn things around and get back to the devastating form that saw him win four of his first five UFC fights via TKO.