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After Israel Adesanya’s sensational stoppage of former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champ Robert Whittaker back in October, all eyes turned to his first title defense, which was meant to be against the juggernaut Paulo Henrique Costa. It wasn’t to be with Costa suffering an arm injury, forcing the Brazilian out until the New Year.
Adesanya and Costa have been very vocal about fighting one another and the injury means the UFC will look at other potential 185 pounders, with the impressive Jared Cannonier and former title challenger Yoel Romero leading the race for their shot.
“The Last Stylebender” recently spoke to MMAFighting.com and said Costa’s injury and surgery may be very costly to the Brazilian’s title aspirations.
“I guess he wasn’t ready to fight,” Adesanya said of Costa in an interview with MMA Fighting. “If he wanted to fight, he would have made sure to do the right things to be in shape already to fight. I don’t pull out. My pullout game is weak.
“Unfortunately for him, he might miss his shot forever if he doesn’t climb his way back up the ranks.”
UFC President Dana White has said he doesn’t want Adesanya to fight Romero and wants the Cuban to get a win first before deciding if the former Olympic wrestler deserves another title shot.
Adesanya has said he’s open to fighting anyone put in front of him and said Costa -- even with his USADA issues -- was his first preference given the smack talk that has been raging on between the pair.
“That’s why I said I want to fight homeboy Paulo Costa because I want to get him and I want to beat him before USADA gets him,” Adesanya said. “I like the challenge of that.”
The undefeated 30-year-old said he’s taking a liking to Cannonier and that the former heavyweight is someone who demands respect given the opponents he’s taking out recently.
“100 percent I’m looking at him,” Adesanya said about Cannonier. “He’s a beast in the division. He’s the dark horse in the division. He’s the guy everyone is sleeping on but you can’t sleep on him because you’ll get put to sleep.
“I think he’s the guy, the second most dangerous guy in the division behind myself. I look forward to fighting him after his next fight.”
Still, Adesanya hopes Costa can make a quick recovery so the champ can make an example of the outspoken Brazilian.
“I was looking forward to my next fight, because that would have sold itself,” Adesanya explained about a potential showdown with Costa. “Because he would try to trash talk me in his broken English, and I would embarrass him on the mic, and then eventually I’d embarrass him on the mat. So that was already set in stone that it was going to be glorious.
“But a guy like Cannonier, I don’t have to. The fight sells itself because of the skill set, and just people want to watch me. Something about me that people just want to watch me get my ass kicked maybe. So they’ll be tuning in either way.”
Adesanya concluded by requesting that his next fight be in America despite some fans calling for him to defend his belt back home in New Zealand.
“I do want it to be in America,” Adesanya explained. “A lot of people want it to be in New Zealand, but I feel Dan Hooker should be the next guy to headline in New Zealand. I can take over the United States.
“I’ll come here, maybe Las Vegas, maybe Houston, maybe Staples Center [in Los Angeles]. We’ll see. We’re talking right now.”