UFC president Dana White recently announced the return of two top ten middleweights. Number seven-ranked Sean Strickland will return on July 1st, while number five-ranked Paulo Costa will be part of what appears to be a stacked UFC 291 fight card on July 29.
Both Costa and Strickland, however, have been matched up with unranked opponents with relatively small name value. During Saturday’s post-fight scrum, White explained the logic behind the make of these bouts.
Dana White explains questionable bookings
Strickland will headline UFC Vegas 76 against Abus Magomedov on July 1st. Magomedov has fought sporadically over the last three years but is coming off a 19-second knockout win over Dustin Stoltzfus in September 2022.
Costa, meanwhile, will face Ikram Aliskerov. The Dagestani fighter has been on a six-fight win streak since 2019 and is likewise coming off a first-round knockout win against veteran Phil Hawes.
While neither fight would likely provide a boost for Costa and Strickland, Dana White says there is logic behind the said matchups.
“Costa hasn’t fought in a long time, Strickland’s been fighting a lot. We like to bring guys in and see where they’re at,” White said (quotes by MMA News).
Dana White is also considering the challenges that the matchups bring.
“The dude that Paulo Costa is fighting is tough as nails, you don’t know how good some guys are until you get them in there against the Top 15.
“When we’re in the matchmaking room, we think some guys are ready for that step, and some guys we don’t know…we challenge people.
“No. 8 doesn’t always fight No. 6 or No. 5, it’s just not the way it works.”
Dana White also said ‘rankings are very important’
Back in 2021, Dana White told UFC correspondent Laura Sanko that the rankings play a huge role in the matchmaking process. However, he also clarified that fights are also made based on public interest.
“Obviously the rankings are very important. We always try to stay with the rankings, and it’s always awesome when you have the champion vs. the No. 1, or No. 1 vs. No. 2.
“But you’ve seen many times when there’s a fight people want to see, we’ll make it.”
Paulo Costa’s previous disagreements with the UFC
After his Fight of the Night performance against former champion Luke Rockhold in 2022, Costa grew dissatisfied with his UFC deal. In December, he was more keen on exploring free agency rather than fighting out the last bout in his contract at the time. He was previously matched up against former champion Robert Whittaker, a bout he never agreed to.
Things between the UFC and Costa seemed to have been ironed out in March. In an interview, manager Tamara Alves claimed that “Borrachinha” is already the “most well-paid Brazilian within the promotion.”
Sean Strickland is a company man
Meanwhile, Strickland sees himself as a company man loyal to Dana White, while drawing a rather interesting parallelism.
“Porn stars. What’s the difference?” he asked the media ahead of his UFC Vegas 66 in December against Jared Cannonier. “We f—ng diet, we get really f—ng skinny. A couple of us get abs. We wear these tight little outfits, little f—ng spandex, with our little cock bulge and our cup.
“And we go out there, we take our f—ng clothes off, and fight in front of thousands of people.
“I’m a f—ng prostitute,” he added. “I take my f—ng clothes off, Dana says go fight that guy. I’m like, ‘alright, Dana. How much?’ And he gives me a number, and I’m like, ‘F—k it, let’s go, Dana! I’ll fight that motherf—r!’
Strickland (26-5) broke a two-fight losing streak in January when he defeated Nassourdine Imavov via decision in his light heavyweight debut.
About the author