Israel Adesanya has already vanquished the vast majority of middleweight contenders on the UFC roster so he’s always looking for new competition.
He’ll take on one of those challenges at UFC 293 when he clashes with Sean Strickland in the main event with another potential matchup looming against Dricus Du Plessis after the South African dispatched ex-champion Robert Whittaker in July. Another fight on the horizon that could give Adesanya yet another fresh, new matchup is the showdown between Paulo Costa and Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 294.
While Adesanya holds an impressive win over Costa from three years ago, he’s never faced Chimaev yet so that’s definitely intriguing to him. The undefeated Chechen will likely only need a single victory against Costa to immediately cement himself as one of the top contenders at 185 pounds, which is exactly why Adesanya is ultimately pulling for him.
“I don’t know who’s going to win but I think if I’m favoring, I might be favoring Khamzat a little bit more,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting while appearing on behalf of Stake.com. “Because I like new blood.”
Chimaev has been considered a future champion almost since the first day he arrived in the UFC, although it appeared his initial path would travel through welterweight rather than middleweight.
Weight cutting difficulties nixed those plans so now Chimaev will return to 185 pounds where he’s fought previously in the UFC but he’s also jumping right into the deep end of the pool against somebody like Costa.
There’s no love lost when it comes to the rivalry Adesanya shared with Costa but he also warns Chimaev that he better not expect an easy night at the office when he faces the Brazilian in October.
Outside of losses to Adesanya and Marvin Vettori, Costa has gone undefeated in the UFC including notable wins over former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold and multi-time title challenger Yoel Romero. In his 14 career wins, Costa has finished 11 by way of knockout.
“I just made Paulo look easy but trust me, he’s a hard fight,” Adesanya said. “He’s a hard fight but I made him look easy. But I think I’m rooting for Khamzat more in that fight.”
While Adesanya has his own problems to deal with on Sept. 9 with his fight against Strickland in Australia, the 34-year-old Nigerian born champion always has time to keep an eye on what’s happening in the rest of the middleweight division.
In this case, Adesanya might be scouting a future opponent a month after his own fight and depending on how things go at UFC 293, he might even look to face somebody like Chimaev before 2023 is over.
“Ain’t that funny?” Adesanya said. “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.”