Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa had to be separated on Friday during their final meeting before Sunday’s headline middleweight title clash at UFC 253 in Abu Dhabi.
The pair, who had both earlier made weight at Flash Forum, were involved in an intense face-off on the same stage, culminating in UFC president Dana White and security having to interject.
Squaring up to one another, Costa angered champion Adesanya by tossing towards him a white belt – the Brazilian is a jiu-jitsu black belt – with Adesanya throwing it back at his rival.
The fighters have been involved in a heated build-up to Sunday’s event, which brings up the curtain on “Return to Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi. The UFC’s second residency in the capital, the series comprises five events and concludes with unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s return at UFC 254 on October 24.
Adesanya and Costa are undefeated – their professional mixed martial arts records stand at 19-0 and 13-0, respectively – meaning for only the second time in UFC history unbeaten male fighters square off for a title. White has touted the bout as fight of the year.
Speaking to The National earlier this week, Adesanya disagreed somewhat, saying: "To be honest, [Costa's] toughness is probably what's going to make it fight of the year, if he can somehow withstand the beating I'm going to put on him.
“But I don’t think he can. I don’t think his gas tank will let him. That’s why I don’t really think it’s going to be fight of the year. But it’s going be a domination of the year and knockout of the year. I just don’t see it going past the fourth round.”
On what to expect come fight night, Adesanya said: “This weekend I can promise you violence. I’m the only one going to be moving back and moonwalking and stabbing him with my fists. There’s no going back in that sense. I’m here. I’m taking him out.”
While Adesanya-Costa tops the card on Sunday, UFC 253 features a second championship bout.
Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz do battle for the light heavyweight crown after Jon Jones vacated his belt month.