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Paulo Costa confirms he won’t be ready to fight until next April

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Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

No. 1 UFC middleweight contender Paulo Costa has suffered a setback while recovering from bicep surgery, and he won’t be ready to fight until spring.

Costa, 28, originally had targeted December for a title shot against Israel Adesanya, whom he confronted following the new champ’s win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 243. A procedure to repair his bicep, which he injured over one year ago, was not expected to present a major delay.

With that timeline now pushed back, Costa’s rep, Wallid Ismail, confirmed the promotion’s plans to give Adesanya another opponent in the interim, though he did not mention any names.

“I have just heard that UFC will find another opponent for Adesanya,” Ismail told MMA Fighting in a prepared statement. “I can’t even imagine Adesanya fighting against anyone else other than Paulo Costa.

“Paulo will be ready to fight in April 2020. and this is the kind of fight all MMA fans want to watch. They truly hate each other. (and) they are both undefeated. The potential of this fight is limitless.”

Ismail suggested the UFC cast the rivals on an upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter” for a showdown at its conclusion.

“This fight has all the ingredients to break all UFC pay-per-view records,” he continued. “Paulo is certain Adesanya is going to lose any time soon, but he really wants to be the first to beat him up.”

Earlier this month, UFC President Dana White said Costa would be first in line to face Adesanya after the champ’s triumph over Robert Whittaker. Adesanya hopped the fence afterward and flipped off Costa, who waved him on as cameras filmed.

But in an interview on Tuesday with UFC personality “The Schmo,” White said the promotion is “working on something else” for Adesanya with Costa expected to be out of action for eight months. White ruled out a superfight between the middleweight champ and light-heavy kingpin Jon Jones, who’ve gone back and forth on social media.

Costa secured his No. 1 contender spot with a grueling decision over two-time interim title challenger Yoel Romero, which marked his fifth straight octagon win and extended his unbeaten streak to 13 fights.