Even in a world which consists of people who enjoy fighting so much that they choose to make a living off it, Randy Costa is undoubtedly different. From his movement to his mindset, the Taunton, Massachusetts native is a singular entity, and he leans all the way into that distinction.
“I’m definitely not the bread-and-butter, cookie-cutter type fighter,” Costa told UFC.com. “I’m not in there pissed off. I’m in there having fun. I was never a fighter. I was never in a street fight. I never hit anyone. I never had any ill will toward anyone. I was never malicious toward anyone. All this is just fun for me.”
Through two UFC starts, Costa’s enjoyment of the whole experience is evident. His debut was an action-packed affair until it ground to a halt in a second-round submission loss to Brandon Davis at UFC 236. Costa shook that off relatively quickly, though. The bout was the first of his short professional career that went longer than 71 seconds, so in his mind, he essentially “quadrupled” his pro experience.
The added cage time was evident in his follow-up fight against Boston Salmon at UFC Boston a few months later. This time, it felt like the proper Randy Costa introduction: all-out action culminating in a first-round finish. In Costa’s eyes, both fights were important – his debut solidified his place in the organization, and his first win took place in front of his family and friends, including the family of his late friend Devin Carrier, whose picture Costa holds with him during weigh-ins and after fights.
“They opened their eyes (at UFC 236) and were like, ‘Holy f***. This Randy Costa kid can fight,’” Costa said. “And then I made that jump from April to October, got that first win at home in front of my family, in front of all my friends, in front of Devin’s family. To win my debut fight wouldn’t have meant nearly as much as winning at home in Boston. Going from April to October with fights, you saw massive improvements in just that short span of time. Now we’re talking from October to September. That’s just over 11 months to the day. My skills have done nothing but develop.”
Much like everyone else in the world, the coronavirus pandemic flipped Costa’s ideas for 2020 on their head. About two weeks out from his March 28 bout with Martin Day in Columbus, the UFC paused its schedule due to COVID restrictions. As soon as he got the news, Costa caught the next flight down to Florida, where his parents have a vacation house.
Stay-at-home orders left many with a whole lot of free time without many options. While some picked up different hobbies or binge-watched a variety of streaming media, Costa’s approach to lockdown was quite understandable following an eight-week training camp.
“I went from a complete fight camp, a complete diet, to a mandatory quarantine where all I did was f***ing eat everything,” Costa said. “I’m talking 16 of f***ing everything. (Laughs) It was awesome. I was so fat. It was awesome. I can’t wait to feel that way again.”
Growing Up Quickly In The UFC
Soon enough, UFC started holding events again, so after few weeks of enjoying the Florida sunshine and knocking back several hard seltzers, Costa began readying himself for a potential call
“Once everything started opening up a little bit down in Florida, I started cleaning up my diet,” Costa said. “I started working out hard again. I really took about three weeks to a month of just being a s***bag, but that was also a lot of recovery stuff because I had come off an eight-week fight camp, dieting, my body was banged up right before a fight, so it was very beneficial. It was probably a blessing in disguise. I don’t really see the blessing part of it yet, but everything happens for a reason, and I’m happy to be where I am.”
Without much pro experience, Costa has taken to heart the little things that he hopes allows him to make up the gap. From eating and drinking right (notwithstanding his post-fight and early lockdown diet) to getting enough sleep, Costa is trying to find any edge he can to make up for his relatively small professional experience.
“My whole social media feed is either UFC, motivational quotes or people that I admire in respective fields like high-level fighters, high-level athletes. People that I want to follow in their footsteps. That’s made a huge difference in my overall outlook on these little stupid things that you wouldn’t even think of; I feel like I’m addressing them and making sure I’m only consuming positivity through social media … I’m not in a negative spot. I’m not reading negativity. You are what you consume, and I’m making sure all the things I consume are helping me get to where I want to be, and that’s one of the best in the world. I want to be one of the best in the world.”
It’s all in an effort to mentally “level up” as quickly as possible. Of course, for as much as mental work helps, the skill set has to follow as well.
The New Kid In The Gym
Even though Costa found himself stuck in Florida – not the worst thing if you check his Instagram – he was about 1500 miles away from his usual home at Lauzon MMA. Luckily, he was close to one of the most notable gyms in the game at American Top Team.
Through his connection with fellow Massachusetts-native Charles Rosa, Costa found himself training in Coconut Creek. Given ATT’s notoriety and lengthy roster of UFC fighters, Costa wasn’t exactly sure what to expect as the new guy on the mat.
“I didn’t think I was going to be welcomed in,” he said. “I thought I was going to have a target on my back like, ‘Oh, this is just another UFC guy walking in the door. Let’s see what he’s about.’ But it was actually the complete opposite. Everyone was super welcoming with open arms, super friendly.”
When Costa agreed to fight Journey Newson on September 19, “The Zohan” teamed up with a pair of ATT bantamweights to prepare: Tony Gravely, who earned a UFC contract on season three of Dana White’s Contender Series, and Marlon Moraes, the No. 1-ranked bantamweight contender in the world.
“I’m getting great work in with these guys,” Costa said. “I’m under great supervision. Everything has been great. I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot. I’m just ready to perform. It’s been a long time coming.”
Despite the new training digs, Costa will have Joe Lauzon and his regular crew in his corner on fight night. As for the future, that’s more up in the air, or as Costa described it, “f***ing no-man’s land.” Rather, he is more focused on the moment and adding a second UFC win to his ledger and enjoying the experience while he’s at it.
The Randy Costa Experience
MMA isn’t short of fun characters and mutual respect, but save for Stephen Thompson and Amanda Ribas, there might not be a more joyful person on the roster than Costa. Even in the increasingly messy state of the world in 2020, Costa seems to always find a positive spin on things, whether he can see the silver lining clearly or not. It’s this mindset, beyond his funky movement or penchant for first-round finishes, that Costa believes is his difference-maker as a fighter.
“If we’re talking about one thing that kind of separates me from other people, it’s my outlook,” Costa said. “I think my outlook on the whole game, the whole sport, on life is kind of different than a lot of other people. If you’ve seen me during fight week or if you’ve even seen me on fight night walking out to the cage, anything, I’m always f***ing happy. I’m always chilling. I’m always nice and loose. I work so hard to get to this point, and I feel like some guys, they get to through these camps and grind through these camps that by the time they get to a fight night, they’re pissed off. They just want to f***ing rage, and they’re mad. For me, the whole journey is getting to that point right there.”
Watch one Randy Costa fight, and it’s easy to see he has a distinctive way of going about a fight. With his wiry 5-foot-9 frame and 73-inch reach, Costa is a peculiar puzzle of movement and timing for opponents to solve. Add in some real power and surprising accuracy, and it’s easy to see why the UFC gave him a shot when his record was just 4-0.
The style is rooted in Costa’s athleticism. Costa said he always enjoyed playing multiple sports growing up and believes that has transferred over well into the way he mixes in all of the martial arts necessary to find success in the Octagon, but he also makes a point to explain that his quirky style is not due to a lack of fundamentals. While somebody might hold sharper experience in a certain discipline, Costa is confident in the way he blends it all together.
“I can’t wait to see what else I can do in the cage with this weird style I have,” he said. “It could be a complete bust. It could be the next big thing. Who the f*** knows? I’m just excited that I’m the one in the driver’s seat, and I get to experiment (with) it.”
As a sport grows over time, certain trends and ideas become the most popular as they are revealed as the best path to victory. From “three true outcomes” and defensive shifts in baseball to the three-point revolution in basketball, a bottlenecking of styles is a natural evolution. While MMA is more or less analytics-proof, unique fighters are a little harder to come by as an increased amount of up-and-comers matriculate through MMA-based training instead of specialized areas.
All that said, Costa is uncommon in both approach and substance. To watch him fight is to also watch him discover in real time what exactly he can do in the Octagon. So far, it’s been a fun viewing experience, but nobody is enjoying it more than Costa.
“It’ll have been two fight camps by the time I get to this one fight,” Costa said. Countless hours of training. Countless hours on the mats. I’m just so excited to finally go out there, and I’m going to make it worth it.
“I can’t f***ing wait to step into the cage.”