The latest episode of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show featured a rising contender combating allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs, a former champion providing an update on his health and a college wrestling champion ready to make his UFC debut.
Here's what you might have missed:
Costa says failed USADA drug test 'not true'
Rising UFC middleweight contender Paulo Costa was initially slated to face Yoel Romero in the main event of April 27's card in Sunrise, Florida. He was later pulled for undisclosed reasons and replaced with Jacare Souza.
Romero told ESPN's Ariel Helwani at the time that it was because Costa failed a USADA drug test.
Speaking for the first time since that incident, Costa vehemently denied any use of performance-enhancing drugs.
"It's not true. Romero is a bad guy. He put this in the air," Costa told Helwani on Monday. "It's not true. I never used steroids in my life. I never used anything to shift the game."
Costa said USADA and the New York State Athletic Commission were looking into a medication he took to help with a stomach problem caused by a weight cut ahead of his fight in November 2017 against Johny Hendricks.
"I feel bad in my stomach, a stomach ache," Costa said. "My medication was normal. It was not to increase performance. But I cannot speak much about this. I need to wait for the New York commission to close the case."
Costa said he is not suspended and wants to fight as early as May. He hopes to get another shot at Romero, particularly based on the comments he made.
Helwani asked if the matchup is now personal.
"Yes, of course," Costa said. "If I fight against him, I will punch with more power to make him pay."
Masvidal in line for title shot?
Jorge Masvidal, coming off a huge KO win against Darren Till in March, had a plethora of options for his next bout. He went with undefeated welterweight Ben Askren. Why? With a win, the belt will be on the line.
"(The UFC) said I would fight for the title after I smash this dude, so I said, 'Let's do it,'" Masvidal told Helwani. "I don't like the dude. But if they offered me somebody else to fight and then get the title, then it would have been somebody else. It's just who gets me quicker to the title. I just want to fight the best in the world."
Askren was quick to respond on social media.
Well they had to dangle some type of Carrot to get him to agree to take a beating. https://t.co/jMwBQkkrxm
- Ben Askren (@Benaskren) April 22, 2019
22 or 23
Number of times in his life Chris Weidman says he has undergone surgery, starting with a surgical repair of a lazy eye when he was in first grade and most recently with the neck and knee operations he underwent after his last fight.
Chris Weidman on ...
His return to the Octagon (after surgery on his neck, then his knee): "I'm hoping in the summer. If I'm not in training camp in June, there's something wrong."
A possible move to light heavyweight: "I can make 185 [pounds] OK still, but I also could fight at 205. I wouldn't be the biggest 205-pounder, but I know I could do pretty well there. ... I was always open to it, but I was so focused on getting my belt back at '85 for so long. After every one of my losses, I was like, 'I gotta get my belt back. I gotta get my belt back.' At this point, my goal is -- whoever I fight, whether it's at 185 or 205 -- just get back to completely dominating and smashing somebody."
Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum for the interim middleweight belt: "Both of those guys just put it on the line. I have a crazy amount of admiration for both of those guys, what they did in that fight. That was unbelievable. I think that might have been one of the best fights I've ever seen, so I give nothing but props to both of them."
His past hesitation to anoint Adesanya as the next big thing: "People were going nuts on Israel. He's a very talented guy. He's got great standup. Now I know he's super-tough after that last fight. But before he fought Anderson Silva, he fought Derek Brunson. He fought Anderson Silva, who is 44 and is known as a stand-up guy, which is a perfect matchup for [Adesanya], and it was a very close fight. ... People were saying he's next big thing and all that stuff, and I just thought at that point he was overrated. He hasn't been able to prove himself yet. He hasn't gone against a top wrestler. He hasn't fought guys in the top five. So I just thought people were getting ahead of themselves a little bit. That was it. I'm a fan of the guy. I like watching him fight."
How a fight against Adesanya would go: "I'd love to fight him. And I think I'm a nightmare matchup for him. ... With my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu and my size, I think I'd be a real problem for him."
Price paid by a sports memorabilia collector for the gloves worn by Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway in their fight, with proceeds to benefit Poirier's Good Fight Foundation, which is building a playground for disabled children in his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana.
UFC welterweight title bout on horizon?
- Greg Rosenstein (@grosenstein) April 22, 2019
"I had so many people in my life push me right when I wanted to go left"
Deron Winn walked into the wrestling room at Gilroy High School, the California school where he is assistant coach, and immediately found himself inspired. It was a Monday in November, and there was head coach Daniel Cormier coaching away -- a mere two days after he defended his UFC heavyweight championship against Derrick Lewis at Madison Square Garden.
"If literally one of the biggest superstars in the sport can do it," Winn thought to himself, "I'll never be too big for these kids."
That's good for the youth to know because Winn, a two-time junior college national champion who was close to making the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, will soon make his debut in the big-time. The 5-0 middleweight faces Markus Perez at a UFC Fight Night on June 22 in Greenville, South Carolina.
The career commitment that goes with professional fighting will not tear Winn away from the high school kids he coaches. It never will because the 29-year-old views youth wrestling as a matter of life and death.
"People think I'm so crazy for how much time I spend with the kids," he said during an appearance on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "But ultimately, not to get too deep, but without wrestling I would be nowhere near where I am today. I would be in the streets. I would be doing things I shouldn't do. I would be maybe locked up and maybe dead -- I'm not lying. That's just the stuff I could see myself getting roped into."
The discipline that wrestling engenders in and demands of young athletes, Winn says, saved his life.
"I love wrestling," he said. "I'm very passionate about it, and I'll never stop. I love kids, too. I love being able to provide kids with mentorship and be a good role model for these kids, push them in the right direction. I had so many people in my life push me right when I wanted to go left."
- ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 17, 2019
"What I saw backstage -- I'm a father myself -- was a young kid who saw his dad bleeding, who saw his dad beat for the first time. His son is young. Max hasn't lost in five years. That's probably as far back as this kid can remember. His dad had never lost, definitely hasn't been beat up and bloodied like that in any fights in the UFC that I've seen. So for a young kid to see his dad bleeding and defeated, I'm sure was hard for him. So when I saw him crying there, I just wanted to let him know, 'He's all right. Things look a lot worse.'"
-- Dustin Poirier on consoling Max Holloway's 7-year-old son, Rush, after the fight