With UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya unlikely to defend his title anytime soon, Paulo Costa’s manager thinks it’s only right his fighter faces Robert Whittaker for the interim belt.
After months of speculation, it was announced earlier this week Adesanya will move up to light heavyweight to fight the division’s champion Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 in March. “The Last Stylebender” defended his 185-pound title in September of last year, handing Costa his first loss as a professional.
Manager Wallid Ismail recently told MMA Fighting that UFC president Dana White wants Costa vs. Whittaker next.
“This fight has been discussed ever since they first announced that Adesanya would fight the 205-pound champion Blachowicz,” Ismail said. “Dana White said he wants this fight, that he would make this fight happen, and Whittaker said he would only fight for the belt next. We’re just waiting for Dana White to book this fight.”
Whittaker, 30, finds himself in a more advantageous position than Costa, winning consecutive decisions against Darren Till and Jared Cannonier in 2020. The Australian’s title reign and nine-fight winning streak were ended by Adesanya when the two met at UFC 243 in October 2019.
“It’s a win-win for the UFC, and that’s what Dana White wants. He knows that Borrachinha vs. Whittaker will sell well, and he knows how much the title unification bout will sell, too.
“This is the best fight for 185, the No. 1 against the No. 2,” Ismail continued. “The winner… Borrachinha will win, and with that win, imagine how many pay-per-views a rematch with Adesanya would do. It’s a business. It’s the best pay-per-view possible because Borrachinha and Adesanya really hate each other, but we can’t leave the division on hold. That’s why we have to make this for the interim belt.”
Whittaker is currently the #1 ranked contender at 185-pounds, whilst Costa is right behind him ranked #2.
About the author