“I might like it,” Olympic Champion Stephen Da Costa considers switching to mixed martial arts

Sacred in Tokyo last summer, Steven Da Costa will not be able to defend his title in Paris in 2024 after karate withdrew from the Olympic program. A situation that might prompt him to embark on the transition to MMA. The French fighter captured this desire, and what is currently holding him back, on the microphone of the RMC Fighter Club.

What if Stephen Da Costa made the transition to MMA? Unexpectedly, the question makes sense when you learn that Olympic champion Karateka in Tokyo is a big fan of discipline. “I really like it and know it very well,” he smiles. In January, he was even welcomed into the RMC Sport group at the UFC heavyweight title shock evening between Frances Ngannou and Cyril Jean. When he left the studios, he told us that the transition to a modern combat sport might interest him and that several coaches have expressed interest in welcoming him.

When we greeted him the past few days at the RMC Fighter Club, we didn’t hesitate to tickle this topic. “I can be delighted, of course, crazy,” he says excitedly. The only brake I have, especially at a time when I’m tired because the gaming repercussions arrived not so long ago. For me, it’s a question: Am I really motivated to start from scratch somewhere else? ?Maybe not necessarily from scratch but there is a lot to see.This is not what bothers me but do I really have the fangs to start from such a low place to go to such a high level?Especially since then I know that with my karate mode we are not going to start with the neighborhood championship.Something big directly. “

Georges St-Pierre and Leo Machida or, more like us, the French Manon Fioreau: There are no examples of success at the highest level of mixed martial arts for karate athletes. But at 25, if da Costa wants to drown, we can’t wait long. “That in my thinking, asserts a person who will fight in feathers if he keeps his karate class. I won’t do it in 40 brooms. It’s now. But making decisions is hard, especially since karate always works for me. It means leaving everything to get to something else because Obviously, you can’t do both at the same time.”

It would also be necessary, no doubt, to move to Paris to join the “big” room and to maximize learning and sparring sessions as quickly as possible. Not ideal for those who feel it at home, in Mont-Saint-Martin, in Meurthe-et-Moselle. “Actually, what stops me the most is that,” he admits. Unlike the scholarships promised in MMA which may change from Karate where the money does not drop en masse. “You’re surprising me…” he laughs. If he thought about this transformation, he too and above all had his own cup gone. Forever first. But also the last. On August 5, 2021, in Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, da Costa ignited France and fulfilled his dream of winning the -67kg final to become the first Olympic champion in Karate history.

A title that the French fighter will not be able to defend in 2024 in Paris, in his country, after his discipline has already been removed from the Olympic program after its incorporation in Japan. The two-time world champion and double champion lost his dream of being a double Olympic victim to a decision he could only struggle with. “How do I feel in hindsight? There’s nothing left. Void. It’s sad but it’s not something we chose, so you have no choice but to swallow. I find it ridiculous and incomprehensible, just like everyone else. Nobody came to me with an argument that made me say it’s normal.” “.

Nor did da Costa absorb the arguments of the president of the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee, Tony Estangate, on the subject: “When you have nothing to say, you look for things. I have no one right after him but he kept sinking into something untenable. He tried. Making baseless arguments. And he sank on his own because it wasn’t right.” Conclusion like screaming: “They mainly talk about the crowd. You talk about money and more sports. In a way, you are killing the games. He spat a little in our faces while I saw that the final of one of the biggest fans in Tokyo. What they say is not tangible. They also said that they want Replay “younger” sports but karate only has 300,000 members in France and we don’t only have 60s. Take my team, young people are in the majority, about 80%.

The arguments are valid. But the decision was confirmed. What’s so discouraging the person who in November added a second world title to his individual record, which also won two European titles? “I’ve won everything and the motivation isn’t the same anymore, he admits. If it all stopped tomorrow, I’d be proud of everything I’ve done. But as long as I’m here, I always want to win. I’m no longer thirsty to go and get this or that title.” But to go and achieve records. If I become world champion again, I will be the most successful ever at this level in France. These few records seek to challenge me a little, and on the day when I won’t have canines, when I don’t care to wash up in combat, it’s time to stop.

Whether you want to get into MMA or not, the thing seems tough. Not for him but for his father, Michel, a veteran French champion who came to karate to follow the path taken by his son Logan (the eldest) and the twins Stephen and Jesse followed. “It’s going to be hard to stop the day I’m going to do it because it’s a family thing. It would hurt me compared to my dad because he gave everything to us and he loves it so much. There are no taboo topics in the house, I can talk to my parents about everything, but it’s really complicated. Once To start a topic, my dad tries to change the topic or pretends he didn’t hear. He doesn’t want to talk about it. But the sport is like a casino, you have to know when to stop. I don’t want to do many years without winning one major title.”

‘I was about to get exhausted’

Between petitions of all kinds, world and end-of-year celebrations, da Costa lived in the post-Tokyo period. The Games, where he was the flag bearer at the closing ceremony, changed his life “a little”, both financially and in terms of fame. They also offered him the honor of receiving the Legion of Honor. But in January, like many post-Olympics athletes, he experienced Olympic spleen, a form of mental void after months of focusing on a goal. “It wasn’t about depression but I felt it. After the games, I was exhausted. In the end, I was almost exhausted, I slept 2 hours a night and ate with a slingshot and once you’re on vacation it’s empty. There’s nothing left. You almost find yourself bored And you’re back in direct darkness. You feel like you’ve changed dimensions. After games, but it’s back to normal all of a sudden and that’s weird. You’re a star for two months and you’re a normal person again. I felt like that but it didn’t bother me because I’m crazy about notoriety even if it’s satisfying.”

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