Israel Adesanya will make his first defense of the UFC middleweight title opposite former title challenger Yoel Romero.
The bout was initially reported by @TalkMMA on Twitter, and Adesanya made it official in a recent interview with ESPN, the official broadcast partner of the UFC.
“The fight’s done. Make no mistake, I’m still putting work in,” Adesanya stated (via The Mac Life). “I’m still getting ready for my second title defence against a veteran (Romero) of the game. A veteran in wrestling, a tough motherf***er, the boogeyman of the division. The guy nobody calls out.”
Adesanya divulged that the bout will occur at UFC 248 in Las Vegas in March, a card that will be co-headlined by a strawweight title fight between reigning champ Weili Zhang and former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Israel Adesanya became the undisputed middleweight champion in October, when he knocked out the former champ Robert Whittaker in the main event of UFC 243. He won the interim title earlier in 2019, defeating Kelvin Gastelum in an unforgettable war and arguably the best fight of the year.
The initial expectation was that Adesanya’s first challenger would come in the form of Brazilian juggernaut Paulo Costa, who defeated Romero by controversial decision at UFC 241 in August. When Costa was sidelined with an injury, however, Romero was tabbed as the next man in line — especially when Adesanya called for the matchup himself.
Since them, Adesanya and Romero have gone back and forth on social media, sparking an entertaining rivalry that will almost certainly culminate in an entertaining fight.
Who do you think will come out on top when Yoel Romero and Israel Adesanya step into the cage together at UFC 248? Will Adesanya take the title back to New Zealand, or will Romero swipe it for himself? Make your pick in the comments section.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/7/2020.