Report: Paulo Costa Pulls out of April 17 UFC Event vs. Whittaker Because of Flu

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2021

Closeup of a glove and the UFC logo at Ultimate Fighting Championship 73 on Saturday, July 7, 2007, in Sacramento, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

UFC fighter Paulo Costa will not be able to participate in the April 17 main event vs. Robert Whittaker because he has a severe case of the flu, according to MMA Fighting's Guilherme Cruz.

Per ESPN's Ariel Helwani, Costa has not tested positive for COVID-19 and is hoping the fight can be rescheduled for either May 1 or May 8. 

The 29-year-old Costa is 13-1 in his professional career, with his first loss coming to Israel Adesanya in Sept. 2020 at UFC 253 with the middleweight title up for grabs. Adesanya won by second-round TKO. 

Costa is an ascending star in the middleweight division and is 5-1 in the UFC, so a matchup vs. a former middleweight champion in Whittaker was highly anticipated. Whittaker, 30, is 22-5 in his professional career and won his last two fights.

He claimed the interim middleweight title in 2017 with a win over Yoel Romero at UFC 213, though he lost it to Adesanya at UFC 243 in 2019. 

According to Brendan Bradford of the Sporting News, Whittaker's camp isn't interested in rescheduling the Costa matchup and instead wants a rematch with Adesanya. Whittaker reportedly "is willing to wait until Adesanya is prepared to fight at 185-pounds again." 

Adesanya, who most recently lost to Jan Blachowicz with the light heavyweight title on the line, is planning on returning to middleweight in the short term.

"Israel will go down and clean up and dominate 185 for a while," his coach his coach Eugene Bareman said on Submission Radio last week (h/t Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting). "And then I do see Jan as being quite a long-reigning champion. I think we'll definitely chase Jan again. He's a worthy opponent and he's beaten us and he's a worthy opponent. I can't exactly predict the future, but we will definitely come hunting for the Polish power again."

As for the Costa vs. Whittaker matchup, Bradford noted it's "likely to be scrapped altogether."