Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Israel Adesanya still has some work to do at middleweight, but he could eventually earn his way to a showdown with Jon Jones in the future.
That’s according to UFC president Dana White, who said it’s going to be awfully hard to ignore that clash of champions considering how badly both Adesanya and Jones have said they wanted to face off one day.
First things first, the New Zealand-based fighter from Nigeria has to get through two-time title challenger Yoel Romero in the UFC 248 main event on March 7 in Las Vegas.
“Adesanya’s going into a fight right now that makes no sense,” White told Jim Rome when asked about the middleweight champion’s upcoming schedule. “He called out Yoel Romero, who he does not have to fight. First of all, nobody’s asking for Yoel Romero. The exact opposite. Every guy who’s fought him will tell you — every time they hit Yoel Romero, it hurt them. This is true. This is fact. From world champions to top three guys in the world will tell you this about Romero.
“Adesanya calls him out and says ‘I feel like this is one of the baddest dudes in the world and my legacy will not be complete without fighting this guy first.’ He could totally wait a couple more months and fight Paulo Costa like he’s supposed to. He’s taking this fight.”
Costa was supposed to get the next shot at the gold after he edged out Romero in a razor-close decision but then had to undergo biceps surgery that will keep him sidelined until later this year.
Rather than sit and wait, Adesanya chose to fight Romero instead.
On paper, Romero is on a two-fight losing streak and he came up short in his two previous bids to become champion. His recent record doesn’t tell the entire story, however, as Romero could have easily earned wins against both Costa and former champion Robert Whittaker in the two fights he’s lost in a row.
Romero also holds knockout wins over a slew of former UFC champions including Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold and Lyoto Machida. All that adds up to Romero getting the title shot even if he may not have earned it based on wins and losses alone.
If Adesanya is successful in that fight, and then finds a way to dispatch Costa, who is undefeated in his career with a perfect 13-0 record, then White will be forced to entertain his idea to move up to 205 pounds to challenge Jones.
“If he gets through [Romero] then gets through Paulo Costa, then he’s got Jon Jones out there, too, which is a very interesting fun fight that probably shouldn’t happen but I’ll probably let it [happen] if they want to,” White said.
In addition to the two sizeable obstacles standing in Adesanya’s way at middleweight, Jones has his own test to past next weekend when he faces Dominick Reyes in the main event at UFC 247 from Houston.
It may be some time before Adesanya and Jones are actually taking aim at each other but at least White is on board if the time comes to book the fight.
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