A middleweight battle between Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa will headline a UFC Fight Night card set for Saturday, April 17, the UFC confirmed on Friday. The clash between the top 185-pound contenders could set up a middleweight championship rematch for the winner after both men have lost previous meetings with champion Israel Adesanya.
Whittaker is on a two-fight winning streak since losing the middleweight title to Adesanya in October 2019. Prior to the loss, Whittaker had won nine straight fights, including capturing the interim title and being promoted to full champion. Since the knockout loss to Adesanya, Whittaker has scored impressive decision wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier to put himself right back into title contention. UFC president Dana White stated after the Cannonier victory that Whittaker would need at least one more victory to earn his championship rematch.
Costa suffered a brutal knockout to Adesanya in his most recent fight as he challenged for the title. The fighters had exchanged months of aggressive trash talk, but Costa was outgunned in the Octagon. The loss was the first of Costa's pro career and the Brazilian immediately began to call for a rematch, taking offense to Adesanya's post-victory antics. He has finished 12 of his 13 victories inside the distance.
Adesanya, meanwhile, will move up to light heavyweight to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the 205-pound championship in March. That sets up a reasonable timeline where, depending on the result of Adesanya's fight and where he places his focus, the winner of Whittaker vs. Costa could receive a rematch for the middleweight title in 2021.
Specifics for the Fight Night event, including location and venue have not yet been announced. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UFC has been holding events at either the UFC APEX in Las Vegas or in Abu Dhabi on Fight Island.