Graphic: See why Paulo Costa’s withdrawal from UFC 294 was completely justified 

Paulo Costa has had a weird few years with withdrawals from fights, but this recent one from UFC 294 is different.

By: Kristen King | 2 months ago
Graphic: See why Paulo Costa’s withdrawal from UFC 294 was completely justified 
Paulo Costa after UFC 278. | Jeffrey Swinger / USA TODAY Network, IMAGO

Paulo Costa withdraws from UFC 294

Paulo Costa has had a tough time getting into the Octagon in the past three years. Following a loss to then-UFC champion Israel Adesanya in 2020, ‘Borrachinha’ has fought twice, losing to Marvin Vettori in 2021 and sending Luke Rockhold into (a short) retirement in 2022. 

Now if we glance at his Tapology page, you see during that stretch, Costa has had five fight cancellations against Robert Whittaker (x2), Jared Cannonier, Rockhold and Ikram Aliskerov. Some were due to contract disputes with the UFC, others were due to illness or injury, but in 2023, it appeared as though all of that was a thing of the past for Costa. All signs pointed to his return, and it was now expected to come against one of his rivals in Khamzat Chimaev. That was until Costa revealed he underwent surgery less than a month ago to treat an infected bursa in his elbow. 

Horrific infection saw Paulo Costa undergoing several surgeries

Though he was determined to get to his fight, there was a strong sense of deja vu that we would get another Paulo Costa cancelation. Sure enough, UFC CEO Dana White confirmed that the Brazilian would no longer fight Chimaev at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Initially, Costa faced some criticism for the cancellation, but those groans of disappointment have turned into groans of disgust after seeing how severe his infection was. 

Costa remained in Abu Dhabi, where he underwent yet another surgery. On Monday, his girlfriend and manager, Tamara Alves, shared a photo of his elbow. Spoiler alert: it is not in good shape. 

Warning: Photo below is graphic. Please proceed with caution. 

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“People think that chronic infection is something simple, they should see how Paulo’s elbow looks now,” wrote Alves on Instagram. 

That photo alone has changed the minds of most in the community, as they now agree that Costa was completely justified in withdrawing from the Chimaev fight. 

Costa addresses his current situation

Paulo Costa recently addressed his situation in a video uploaded on X (formerly Twitter). 

“The hole needs to stay like this, open and closing from the inside out,” said Costa. “You cannot close an injury with stitches when you have an infection like this. This was not a medical error or my mistake or whatever. This is the result of a serious chronic bacterial infection that became resistant to various antibiotics. And, even with appropriate medical treatment, the infection insisted on returning.”

Costa also addressed the criticism he received in light of his fight cancellation. 

“There will always be criticism, regardless of the situation, from a small group of people,” said Costa. “Some might say: ‘Oh, you could be fighting like that, even with the elbow open!’ Others might say: ‘Why didn’t you wait to have this surgery after the fight?’ I didn’t have that option. I had two options: I would have emergency surgery or I would put my health at permanent risk.”

As for what comes next for Costa, he hopes to return to the Octagon by the end of the year. 

On a scale of 1-Kevin Randleman, Paulo Costa is at a solid 7 with this infection.

Costa out, Kamaru Usman in against Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 294

After Paulo Costa withdrew from UFC 294, the UFC found a short-notice replacement for Khamzat Chimaev. Ex-champion Kamaru Usman is moving up from welterweight to middleweight for this fight, which has an added incentive. Per Dana White, the winner of Chimaev vs. Usman is next in line for the newly crowned champion, Sean Strickland

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About the author
Kristen King
Kristen King

Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016, getting her start with outlets such as FanSided, MyMMANews and MMA-Prospects. She joined the BE team in 2020, covering a mix of news, events and injuries. In her time with BE, Kristen has created ‘Fright of the Night,’ a series that highlights some of the worst injuries in the sport.

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