With Paulo Henrique Costa sidelined through the first quarter of 2020 due to bicep surgery, the middleweight title picture is not as clear as it appeared to be following UFC 243.
Costa was the clear No. 1 contender-in-waiting for newly-crowned champion Israel Adesanya, but his injury has opened the door for a new challenger. While Adesanya has expressed an interest in a matchup with Yoel Romero while Costa heals, UFC president Dana White would prefer that “The Soldier of God” add to his resume before receiving a title shot.
“[Adesanya] wants to fight Yoel Romero,” White said in an interview with Adam's Apple. “He wants Romero. So we’re talking about giving Romero a fight coming up soon here and then (Adesanya) will fight the winner of that fight.”
White’s reluctance is well-founded: Romero has lost three of his last four Octagon appearances and has missed weight for a pair of championship fights against Robert Whittaker. The American Top Team representative is coming off a narrow loss to Costa in a contender’s bout at UFC 241.
Meanwhile, Costa has claimed that he will be ready to return by April, which would seem to be a reasonable timetable for Adesanya’s first official title defense. However, White still believes the Brazilian’s absence will be longer than that.
“Costa tore his bicep so he had to have surgery,” White said. “He’s claiming that he will be back sooner than he will be. That’s not what the doctor is telling me, so that’s not true.”