Paulo Costa has withdrawn from his upcoming UFC headliner with Robert Whittaker.
Costa (14-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) was supposed to face Whittaker (22-5 MMA, 13-3 UFC) at UFC Fight Night on April 17, but a “severe” case of the flu has rendered him unable to properly prepare for the five-round bout with the former middleweight champion.
It’s unlikely Whittaker will receive a replacement opponent, and there are ongoing discussion for the matchup to be rescheduled for a UFC Fight Night event on May 1 or May 8. However, no new date has been finalized at this time.
MMA Junkie verified the changes from multiple people close to the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the UFC has yet to make an official announcement, after initial reports from AgFight.com and MMAFighting.com.
Whittaker, 30, lost the UFC middleweight title to Israel Adesanya in October 2019, but turned his momentum around in 2020. Fighting twice in the calendar year, Whittaker defeated Darren Till and Jared Cannonier – both by unanimous decision.
Following his October victory over Cannonier, all signs pointed toward Whittaker being next in line for UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. However, Whittaker’s post-fight comments steered Dana White in a different direction and Adesanya was paired up with UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz instead.
Costa, 29, has not competed since an unsuccessful title challenge in October. At UFC 253, Costa was finished via strikes by Adesanya in Round 2. The finish, and subsequent mocking celebration by Adesanya, seemed to rub Costa the wrong way. Shortly after the fight, Costa vowed to storm back and defeat Adesanya.