Exclusive: Jared Cannonier Was Offered Paulo Costa At UFC 301, Admits Next Fight ‘Wasn’t What I Wanted’

Cannonier settles for #8-ranked Nassourdine Imavov at UFC Louisville.

Cannonier Imavov Ufc
(via @killagorillamma - Instagram)

Jared Cannonier thinks he drew the short end of the stick at 185lbs.

Returning from an injury, the #4 ranked UFC Middleweight contender had hoped for a high-ranking opponent that could see him launched into title contention with a win. But, the matchmakers had other plans, booking Sean Strickland against Paulo Costa and Robert Whittaker vs. Khamzat Chimaev. 

Considered the odd man out, “The Killa Gorilla” was eventually given a fight with #8-ranked contender Nassourdine Imavov instead. The middleweights take center stage in the UFC Louisville main event on June 8 as first reported by Alex Behunin.

The UFC’s Original Plan

Though, before his comeback fight came together, Cannonier says he was offered a different contender in Paulo Costa.

“Initially, they offered me a fight with Paulo Costa [at UFC 301],” Cannonier told Middle Easy. “I wasn’t gonna be cleared until like the end of March. That would have just been like a one month camp to get ready to get back to competition. I didn’t wanna jump right back into competition without having been training everything I need to be training leading up to getting a fight schedule. So, I wasn’t really grappling as much. Of course, I wasn’t cleared to compete, so I didn’t have full utilization of my recovered knee.”

Costa did make mention of Cannonier as a potential opponent in a recent headline.

“It Wasn’t What I Wanted,” Cannonier On Fighting Imavov

All healed up and ready to make another run at the UFC title, Cannonier says he wasn’t too satisfied with getting Imavov as an opponent, but he’ll make do with the opportunity that’s being presented to him.


“They called me 3 or 4 weeks later with the Imavov fight and it wasn’t what I wanted. Naturally, I want the contenders fight. I want the highest ranking, the best matchup which was, I was hoping to get Costa later, maybe in June, but they gave that fight to Whittaker. That ship sailed. So, all I had all they had left was Imavov. So, I needed to get my toes wet again, and he’s a good dust-up to knock the dust off, if you will.

“I wanted the top, anybody ahead of me: Strickland, Adesanya, Whittaker,” Cannonier later added.

Etching His Name In The History Books

While not overly excited to fight Imavov at first glance, Cannonier says the Frenchman is “definitely a contender— a force to be reckoned with.” But, so is the former UFC title challenger, who’s coming off back-to-back wins over Sean Strickland and Marvin Vettori. In his last appearance, Cannonier broke the record for most significant strikes landed in a middleweight fight at 249. He looks to surpass this incredible feat when he takes Imavov next month and maybe even get a title shot in the process.

“Imma break a record,” Cannonier proclaimed. “I wanna even get more strikes landed on this one or as few strikes needed to knock somebody out. But, no expectations. I’m not gonna go into this with any expectations. I’m just gonna go in there and give the best performance of my life, and he’s not gonna be able to handle it.

“…It’s always all about the next fight. So, I’m gonna go on there and try to give the performance of my lifetime, the best performance that anybody has ever seen, and then hopefully that’ll be enough to sway the UFC as to who’s gonna be next for the next title shot. I’m not really banking on getting into that title shot after this because there’s so much going on ahead of me with Whittaker and Chimaev between DDP [Dricus Du Plessis] and Adesanya.”

Watch Jared Cannonier’s full interview with Middle Easy’s James Lynch below:

Published on May 9, 2024 at 6:35 pm
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