With September just around the corner, plans for UFC 253 are starting to come together.
On Saturday, MMA Fighting reported that a middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa had been agreed upon for the Sept. 19 pay-per-view.
Originally that date was tentatively reserved for a lightweight title unification bout between reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim title holder Justin Gaethje. Right now, however, fighting is the absolutely last thing on Nurmagomedov’s mind following the tragic death of his father Abdulmanap in early July.
One thing for certain: The promotion won’t rush Nurmagomedov back before he’s ready, which is why UFC President Dana White is giving the champ as much time to grieve as he needs. Add to that, White confirmed that Nurmagomedov’s title isn’t going to be threatened just because he’s out of action, and when the undefeated Russian is ready to compete again, the UFC will happily welcome him back.
“He’s going to fight when he calls me,” White said about Nurmagomedov at the UFC Fight Island 2 post-fight press conference. “Khabib’s dad just died. When he’s ready, he’ll let me know.”
With Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje delayed for the time being, it appears the UFC is moving towards Adesanya vs. Costa as the headliner for the September pay-per-view card.
When asked about that matchup, White claimed the fight wasn’t “done” yet but he did address the potential location for UFC 253. As the organization plans a return to the U.S. in August, it seems Fight Island might be revisited the following month.
“Probably be here [in Abu Dhabi],” White answered when asked about UFC 253’s location.
Nothing has been decided yet, but White has previously stated that the promotion would be bouncing back and forth between the UFC’s home back in Las Vegas as well as Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, where international fighters can secure travel easier than flying stateside.
With Adesanya in New Zealand and Costa coming from Brazil, it’s entirely possible Fight Island is the best destination for that highly anticipated middleweight clash.