Israel Adesanya's upcoming opponent Paulo Costa has sent a message to the UFC middleweight champion – vowing to "erase him" in their upcoming bout.
In one of the most anticipated middleweight bouts in the promotion's recent history, Adesanya (19-0) and Costa (13-0) will meet in Abu Dhabi on September 27 in just the second men's title fight to feature two undefeated fighters.
In just five UFC bouts, Costa has left a trail of destruction in his wake and turned plenty of heads on his rise to the upper echelon of the division. In his 13 career wins, he has only needed the judges' scorecards once.
The pair have traded barbs since Adesanya won the title in October last year, and speaking to media this week, Costa sent a stark warning to the Kiwi champion.
"I'm working to cut his head off. I don't know if his mind is broken or not. I don't care. I'll go there and I will erase him if he's good or not. If he s***s his pants or not, I will finish him," Costa said.
"To me, he's nothing...I will be happy after I hurt him."
Adesanya and Costa come into the bout both with a victory over perennial contender Yoel Romero by unanimous decision in their last fight. However, the two bouts couldn't have been more different.
Costa's bout against Romero was action-packed from start to finish, with the two combining to throw almost 1000 total strikes in just three rounds. Only 221 total strikes were attempted through five rounds when Adesanya and Romero met, as Adesanya struggled to get his Cuban adversary to engage for most of the fight.
Adesanya bore the brunt of the criticism for the lack of action in the fight, and that has helped Costa perpetuate the narrative that Adesanya spent the fight running from the powerful Romero.
"I don't know if you know but Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, he got coronavirus. I wish the best for him, and a good recovery for him. But with this news, now Adesanya is now the No 1 fastest man in the world. Adesanya is now official the No 1 fastest runner of the world," Costa said.
While Costa's camp is using that as ammunition in the verbal warfare, it links into what could be a big problem for Costa as the fight wears on.
The 29-year-old Brazilian has not been in a five-round fight in his career, and has only seen a third round once. Throughout his time in the UFC, his output has noticeably slowed as the fight goes on.
"We're concerned about his cardio because he's been running a lot," Costa's coach Eric Albarracin said in a dig at Adesanya. "He's in shape from running.
"So, that's probably the thing we're concerned about – how high his cardio is. But his cardio's not going to matter because we're going to finish it inside of two rounds."
Through eight UFC fights, Adesanya lands four significant strikes per minute while absorbing less than three. Costa lands at a massive rate – an average of nine per minute – but also wear more than twice the amount of Adesanya, who has had significantly more time in the octagon.
So, while he's set on finishing the fight early, that's much easier said than done against a clinical striker like Adesanya, who is hard to hit and can strike off the front or back foot.
"I will finish this fight with striking," Costa said. "He will not get to the third round."