Israel Adesanya, having conquered most of the middleweight contenders in the UFC, continuously seeks fresh challenges. His next test is set for UFC 293, where he’ll face Sean Strickland in the main event. Another potential matchup looms against Dricus Du Plessis after Du Plessis defeated former champion Robert Whittaker in July. Additionally, the bout between Paulo Costa and Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 294 holds the promise of providing Adesanya with a new and intriguing rival.
Adesanya boasts an impressive victory over Costa from three years ago, but he has yet to square off against Chimaev, a prospect that piques his interest. Chimaev, an undefeated Chechen, may only need one victory over Costa to solidify his status as a top contender at 185 pounds. Adesanya leans slightly toward favoring Chimaev, stating, “I might be favoring Khamzat a little bit more because I like new blood.”
Chimaev was regarded as a future champion almost immediately upon entering the UFC, although his initial path seemed to be in the welterweight division rather than the middleweight. Weight cutting issues altered those plans, leading Chimaev back to 185 pounds, where he will face the formidable Costa.
Adesanya’s rivalry with Costa is well-documented, but he offers a word of caution to Chimaev, emphasizing that facing the Brazilian in October won’t be a walk in the park. Despite Adesanya making his victory over Costa look easy, he acknowledges that Costa is a formidable opponent, having gone undefeated in the UFC apart from losses to Adesanya and Marvin Vettori. Costa’s record includes notable wins over former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold and multiple-time title challenger Yoel Romero, with 11 of his 14 career victories coming by knockout.
While Adesanya is focused on his upcoming fight against Strickland in Australia, he keeps a close watch on developments in the middleweight division. Depending on the outcome of UFC 293, Adesanya may entertain the possibility of facing someone like Chimaev before the end of 2023.
In Adesanya’s words, “Ain’t that funny? I’m the one actually pushing for fights. I’m even trying to have one more this year. We’ll see. Yeah, definitely [might get one more fight this year]. We’ll see.”