When Paulo Costa suffered an injury, it seemed the next step for middleweight champ Israel Adesanya was clear. Adesanya wanted Yoel Romero and Romero certainly seemed to want Adesanya. Now, according to an ESPN report, the fight is a done deal for UFC 248 on March 7 from Las Vegas.
Adesanya had previously said the fight was a a done deal for the event on Jan. 6, telling ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, “The fight’s done. I literally just got to the gym now. I’m about to get some work in. Make no mistake, I’m still putting work in. I’m still getting ready for my second title defense against a veteran in the game, a veteran in the wrestling, a tough motherf—–, the boogeyman of the division, the guy no one calls out — except ‘Stylebender.'”
The fight is a modern take on the old-school ideas of what mixed martial arts would look like. Adesanya (18-0) is an accomplished kickboxer who turned his striking skills into an elite MMA career. Undefeated to date, Adesanya has seven wins in the UFC, including a recent three-fight run that saw him defeat the legendary Anderson Silva, win the interim middleweight title in a war with Kelvin Gastelum and knock out Robert Whittaker to become undisputed champion.
By contrast, Romero is an Olympic silver medalist wrestler who has been a longtime contender in the middleweight division. While his wrestling skills and powerful hands have been effective weapons over the years, he has somewhat self-sabotaged in the past. In July 2017, he battled Whittaker to a competitive unanimous decision loss in an interim title bout. Then, the following February, he defeated Luke Rockhold, also in a fight for the interim belt but had missed weight, making him ineligible to become champion. A rematch with Whittaker was up next and again Romero was ineligible to win the title — this time for the undisputed title — in another close decision loss.
Weili Zhang is scheduled to defend the women’s strawweight title on the same card, putting the belt on the line against former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk.