‘I starved some nights’: Alessandro Costa looks back at life in Mexico before UFC dream became a reality


Alessandro Costa had a chance to sign with the UFC this past July at Dana White’s Contender Series, but a split decision win wasn’t enough to impress the UFC president. Five months later, Costa finally makes his debut Saturday at UFC Vegas 66 versus Amir Albazi.

Costa said on this week’s episode of Trocação Franca that he was “sad” with his DWCS victory because he didn’t perform like his true self. He bounced back with a 12-second knockout in October at LUX, an organization where he reigned as a longtime flyweight champion, and finally earned the deal to compete in the octagon.

“Ever since I lived in Manaus, a blue belt in jiu-jitsu watching Jose Aldo fight, I said my dream was to be like Jose Aldo,” Costa said. “Leaving Manaus and conquering the world, becoming UFC champion and hearing [Bruce Buffer] say, ‘Manaus, Brazil.’ I left with that dream in mind, and when my manager said I was fighting Saturday, I couldn’t believe it. It’s seven years of hard work. I remembered every moment I thought about giving up, and that’s what motivates me every day now.”

Costa was 19 when he left home with a few friends to compete in a jiu-jitsu tournament in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and “see how life was out there, because life was very hard in Manaus.” Costa trained seven days a week in his hometown and couldn’t even afford to pay for his registration to compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments.

Costa and his friend Diego Lopes decided to stay in the country and get any job that gave them enough money to pay their bills. Working as everything from a gardener to a garbageman, Costa eventually booked his first official MMA fight. Before fight night arrived, however, Lopes pulled out from his own bout due to an injury earlier that same month, and Costa quickly replaced him. What resulted was two sub-minute wins in a span of 15 days.

Costa had his rough moments and thought of giving up and moving back to Brazil, though. He didn’t speak the Spanish nor English necessary to work at hotels crowded by tourists from all over the world. In order to work as a gardener, he’d walk for an hour to get to work for his nine-hour shift since he couldn’t even afford to pay for a bus fare.

“I missed my family and we didn’t have much to eat. I starved some nights,” Costa said. “I texted my coach and said it sucked, that there was nothing for me there, and I thought about going back to Manaus. He told me, ‘Man, I told you that was going to happen, but you have to find a way to grow there.’”

Being a Brazilian in Mexico proved to be beneficial at times, especially for someone trying to get sponsors. Costa eventually opened his own team with Lopes and then partnered with Francisco Grasso, coach of Alexa Grasso and Irene Aldana. That gave him the opportunity to sharpen his striking, teaching jiu-jitsu in return.

After four years of intense work with Grasso, Costa feels ready to impress against Albazi in Las Vegas.

“His style is similar to mine,” said Costa, who’s scored half of his 12 MMA wins by submission. “His striking is OK, but I see myself the superior fighter on the feet — and I also have jiu-jitsu. Wherever we go, he’s in for a fight.”



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