Newly crowned UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has been waiting to make his first title defense since capturing the title from Robert Whittaker at UFC 243, and now there may be a changing of opponent for the champion. While Adesanya himself has said that Yoel Romero would be his next opponent, UFC President Dana White threw a curveball on Wednesday night.
Speaking to John Morgan of MMA Junkie, White revealed that Paulo Costa, who has engaged in a war of words with Adesanya but is recovering from a biceps injury, could actually step in place of Romero and face Adesanya for the title in March at UFC 248.
— MMA Junkie (@MMAjunkie) January 16, 2020
“There’s no holdup on it at all, that’s the fight [Adesanya vs Romero] we’re trying to make. It would be those two and Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The only question is, I don’t know if you’ve seen on social media, but if you look at Costa, he looks like he’s ready to go again. And he’s pushing hard saying ‘I can take this fight.'”
While White is encouraged by the recovery process of Costa, he said the waiting game for making a fight with Adesanya is because the UFC would like to hear from doctors that Costa is ready and able to compete.
“If you look at him online, he looks great and everything else, but we want to hear it from a doctor. We want the doctor to tell us that this guy is going to be okay to fight sooner. Why rush it?”
After he won the title at UFC 243, Adesanya took aim at Costa calling him a “Ricky Martin wannabe” which is where things began between the two. Most recently, Costa defeated Romero at UFC 241 in August and improved to 5-0 in his time with the UFC. Overall, Costa is 13-0 in his professional MMA career and has wins in the UFC over the likes of Romero, Uriah Hall, and Johny Hendricks.