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Israel Adesanya: Paulo Costa title fight will be everything Yoel Romero should’ve been

Israel Adesanya believes his UFC 253 title fight with Paulo Costa will deliver in a big way – at least on his end.

UFC president Dana White has touted Adesanya (19-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) vs. Costa (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) as his prediction for 2020 “Fight of the Year” ahead of the middleweight championship showdown on Sept. 26, which does not have an announced location but airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.

Adesanya doesn’t necessarily agree with that assessment, though. If he has to dig deep for another all-time battle, like he did against Kelvin Gastelum in April 2019, he said he would be prepared to do so. However, he plans to produce something else memorable.

“I think a performance of the year, shutout of the year, shutdown of the year maybe,” Adesanya told MMA Junkie during Tuesday’s UFC 253 virtual media day. “‘Fight of the Year?’ I’ve already had that in my back pocket, but if it happens again – I don’t think it’s going to happen just because of the situation. You have to be smart enough to put it together. This guy gasses after the first round. We have five rounds. Look at me in all my fights in the fifth, the fourth round, the third round, the later rounds – I’m always fresh. So, yeah, precision is going to be the key to this fight. Precision, skill and just taking him out one by one.”

The matchup between Adesanya and Costa is a special one. It represents just the second time in UFC history that two undefeated male athletes will have met for a title, with the other taking place over a decade ago between Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida at UFC 98. There’s been hype around the matchup for some time, and now that it’s official, expectations are growing.

The feeling of anticipation was similar going into Adesanya’s previous fight against Yoel Romero at UFC 248. He won a decision to keep the gold, but it received heaps of criticism for being lackluster. Adesanya has gained perspective from that bout, and he believes this contest will deliver everything the Romero fight should’ve.

“This is perfect,” Adesanya said. “What I was expecting from my last fight is going to happen this fight. In my story, you just can’t have it going good and going great in the story. You need a dip in the valley when things go to (expletive). After the last fight, the performance that Yoel Romero brought, he was lackluster. I’ve never been in a boring fight in my life. I had all this criticism, justly or unjustly. That was a dip, and now this is the rise back. What better antagonist than this guy, who was undefeated, a KO artist, he looks the way he does, ballooned up. It’s like David and Goliath. I (expletive) this guy up, and it’s just spectacular. As they say: Someone’s 0 has got to go. It’s a beautifully set up story. You couldn’t write this (expletive). You could, but it’s real.”

There’s been plenty of harsh words exchanged between Adesanya and Costa that have provided an additional layer of tension to the bout. Costa recently told MMA Junkie that he has no intention of making peace with his rival after he wins by knockout. By all appearances, Adesanya feels the same way.

“You can get closure,” Adesanya said. “You know when you break up with someone, and you have closure? You don’t need to find closure with anyone. Closure comes within yourself. After I knock him out, I’m just going to carry on with my day.

“Imagine if I have pink hair, and I whoop this mother(expletive)’s ass? I might be another color by the time the fight comes around. But right now I’m (expletive) with this. It’s beautiful. It’s like candy floss.”

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