Israel Adesanya is near finalizing the primary protection of his UFC middleweight championship in a March 7 struggle in opposition to Yoel Romero, Adesanya and his coach advised ESPN on Monday.
“I’ve my first man on the chopping block,” Adesanya mentioned throughout an look on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Present. “That is Yoel. He is the primary one, and I need to defend my belt 3 times this 12 months, no less than.”
Each Adesanya and his coach, Eugene Bareman, confused that the reserving will not be but a executed deal. However they anticipate the struggle to headline UFC 248 in Las Vegas, which already has a strawweight title struggle between champion Zhang Weili and former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk slated for the co-main occasion.
The UFC’s first card of the 12 months options its largest star squaring off in opposition to its all-time chief in wins in the principle occasion. Conor McGregor, who hasn’t fought since October 2018, will shut the present at UFC 246 in opposition to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in a welterweight struggle. Within the co-main occasion, former bantamweight champion Holly Holm will face Raquel Pennington.
UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cowboy
• Saturday, Jan. 18, Las Vegas
• Early prelims: ESPN+, 6:15 p.m. ET
• Prelims: ESPN, eight p.m. ET
• Primary card: ESPN+ PPV, 10 p.m. ET
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“There are some small particulars that must be labored out,” mentioned Bareman, who coaches Adesanya at Metropolis Kickboxing in Auckland, New Zealand. “However we’re staying optimistic. … We anticipate to be strolling down murderers’ row once more come March.”
Adesanya (18-Zero), a 30-year-old native of Nigeria, gained the 185-pound belt with a second-round TKO of Robert Whittaker in October. He entered that bout as interim champion, after defeating Kelvin Gastelum final April.
Romero (13-Four) could be getting a title struggle coming off losses in his final two fights and three of his final 4. Two of these defeats got here in opposition to Whittaker, one in a struggle for an interim belt. The opposite Whittaker bout was to be for the title, however Romero missed weight for the second straight time and it was designated a nontitle struggle.
Israel Adesanya turned the UFC middleweight champion after his Oct. 6 victory over Robert Whittaker. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Photographs
The 42-year-old Cuban was a 1999 freestyle wrestling world champion and a silver medalist within the 2000 Olympics.
Adesanya’s first title protection was anticipated to come back in opposition to Paulo Costa, who defeated Romero final August to run his document to 13-Zero. However Costa is on the shelf after present process biceps surgical procedure.
“He harm himself, allegedly, and now he cannot struggle for possibly seven extra months,” mentioned Adesanya. “However I am not sitting round ready for this wannabe to get higher after which come see me. So yeah, I picked on the following man, who nobody needs to name out. And that is Yoel Romero.”