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Israel Adesanya targets Yoel Romero next, wants to fight ‘the guy everyone thinks can beat me’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Israel Adesanya has a name in mind for his next opponent.

The reigning UFC middleweight champion, who unified the title with a second-round knockout over Robert Whittaker in October, is looking to stay busy by returning during the early part of 2020.

Unfortunately that kind of timing precludes Brazilian slugger Paulo Costa, who was expected to be Adesanya’s next opponent but it was recently revealed that a bicep injury will likely keep him sidelined until April.

Never one to wait, Adesanya is moving onto a different challenge so he can get started with what he anticipates to be a very busy year for the middleweight division.

“I want to defend my title again in February or March,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting on Monday. “Because homeboy [Paulo Costa], the guy I called out next, he’s been put out for a while. He can’t fight for eight months so I want to try and get whoever I can, probably [Yoel] Romero is who I’m asking for, either February or March.”

Romero has been vocal about getting the next shot at Adesanya ever since the news broke that Costa would be out until April 2020.

The former Olympic silver medalist from Cuba is often considered the most dangerous middleweight in the UFC with a blinding combination of speed and power with his striking not to mention his world class wrestling.

There is little doubt that Romero would be a challenge for anybody at 185 pounds but he’s also sitting off two straight losses right now, which would seem to typically eliminate him from title contention.

“Nope, that’s not the fight as a matchmaker I’d get next because the guy’s coming off a loss,” Adesanya explained. “Not just one, not just two but three of his last four fights have been losses. That’s not the smart move to make next but as me, as a fighter I want to fight the guy everyone thinks can beat me.

“Everyone was hyping up the Robert [Whittaker] fight like how are you going to beat Robert? He went 10 rounds with Romero! I was like and the f*ck what? At the press conference, I said ‘so the f*ck what?’. He’s good but people think he’s this boogieman, maybe it’s just the muscle thing but everybody thinks muscles win fights but not in this era.”

Adesanya knows that Romero would be a challenge for any number of reasons, which is exactly why he’s running head first into a fight like this rather than focusing strictly on wins and losses.

“I think his skill set as a wrestler [makes him dangerous],” Adesanya said about Romero. “Also, he’s got some interesting tactics — stoolgate, never make weight, pulling out — he has his ways. As Eddie Guerrero says ‘if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying’ and he has wisdom for trying.”

Ultimately it comes down to defending his middleweight title against the best that the UFC has to offer him and Adesanya has heard non-stop that Romero is the fighter he should fear the most.

“I said hold my beer, let me show you how it’s done,” Adesanya said about challenging Romeo next. “I took care of Robert and people said Romero couldn’t finish him, how are you going to finish him? I did it in two [rounds]. I did it twice — in the first and the second round.”