Paulo Costa is the “rightful” No.1 contender for Israel Adesanya’s middleweight title.
That’s according to the Brazilian’s head coach Eric Albarracin.
Middleweight king Adesanya will defend his belt against Cuba’s Yoel Romero early on Sunday morning in the main event of UFC 248 in Las Vegas.
Fan favourite Romero was given a second crack at the 185lb crown after it emerged Costa suffered a serious bicep injury in his unanimous decision victory over the 42-year-old last August.
The UFC's decision not to wait for the undefeated Costa to heal up has annoyed Albarracin, who said: “Paulo is the rightful person to fight for the title.
“He's done everything he said he would do. He called out Yoel for a year. So I don't know why Israel is saying, 'I'm fighting someone nobody wants to fight.'”
Adesanya’s showdown with Romero will be his first outing since claiming the middleweight throne with an emphatic second-round TKO victory over Robert Whittaker last November.
Albarracin is a fan of the match-up but reckons the Nigerian-born Kiwi’s maiden title defence was hastily put together. He said: “I don't think they should've rushed this fight. I think they should've waited.
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"I'm not a matchmaker and I don't work for the UFC, but I always thought the first Ultimate Fighter on ESPN would've been perfect for the 'The Last Stylebender and 'The Eraser'.
“Two undefeated middleweights who are knocking out everybody and finishing all of their opponents. And they hate each other. Israel's got a real mouthpiece that's gold. It would've been pure gold on TV.
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"Plus, ‘The Eraser' is the best looking guy in MMA. He looks like Ricky Martin, but he hits like Mike Tyson. It would've been TV gold.”
Costa, 13-0, was expected to be on the sidelines for nine months but has made a faster than expected recovery.
Albarracin insists the 28-year-old is champing at the bit to get back inside the octagon, saying: “Paulo is always ready to go.
"Paulo is an obsessed athlete and is obsessed with training. So you don't ever have to ask if he's ready. I have to ask him to slow down.”
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