It's already one of the most anticipated bouts of 2020, but when Israel Adesanya steps into the octagon to defend the UFC middleweight title against Brazilian knockout artist Paulo Costa at UFC 253 on September 27, history will be made.
The bout will be the first time the UFC middleweight championship has been contested between two undefeated fighters; Adesanya coming in with a 19-0 record and Costa a 13-0 record.
The two have been on a collision course for some time, with Adesanya asking for the fight back in 2018. While it didn't materialise then, the Kiwi star said having Costa as his opponent now was perfect for the storyline.
"What better antagonist than this guy who is undefeated, a KO artist, looks the way he does - you know, ballooned up. It's like David and Goliath," Adesanya said.
"I f*** this guy up and it's spectacular. Like they say, someone's 0 has to go – it's a beautifully set up story. You couldn't write this s***."
It's a bout between two very different fighters. Adesanya is a long, slender fighter who utilises his precision and speed to clinically pick his opponents apart, while Costa is a big, bulky brawler who relies on his power. Both fighters have more than 10 wins by way of knockout.
Adesanya is unbeaten in eight fights since joining the UFC in early 2018 – with six of his opponents being among the division's top 15 – while Costa has won five straight since his UFC debut in early 2017. The pair have just one opponent in common, highly ranked Cuban Yoel Romero, who they both beat by unanimous decision.
While the bout will be on for the books in terms of the UFC as a whole, Adesanya and some teammates from Auckland's City Kickboxing gym will make a little history of their own.
Featherweight Shane Young, flyweight Kai Kara-France and lightweight Brad Riddell will all be a part of the UFC 253 card, making it the first UFC card to feature four Kiwi fighters from the same gym. It will be just the second time four New Zealand-based fighters feature on the same UFC card, following UFC 243 in Melbourne last October which featured Adesanya, Riddell, lightweight Dan Hooker (City Kickboxing) and welterweight Luke Jumeau (Core MMA, Hamilton).
While Auckland is observing level 3 lockdown restriction, 10 members of City Kickboxing have formed their own bubble at the gym so they could continue training at the best possible level, using the upstairs area for sleep and relaxation. All four of the Kiwis fighting at UFC 253 are living in the bubble, along with head coach Eugene Bareman and teammates helping them prepare for the upcoming fights.
"It's beautiful because right now we're all together huddled up, locked down at the gym," Adesanya said.
"It's just back to the simple life. It kind of throws it back for me to how it was in China; the simple things, and all I had in my mind was the pursuit of greatness.
"I love the vibe we're on right now."
Adesanya's fight will be one of two title bouts at UFC 253, with the vacant light heavyweight title set to be contested between American Dominick Reyes and Poland's Jan Blachowicz. The title was vacated by long-reigning champion Jon Jones earlier this week after disputes over payment and suggestions he would return at heavyweight if he and the company could agree on his purse.
In sharing the news on social media, Jones indicated he would be waiting for Adesanya in 2021, with no secret the pair are hopeful to fight one another at some point next year.
"One hundred per cent I will fight Jones. It doesn't change my plans at all," Adesanya said.
Confirmed fights for UFC 253
Israel Adesanya (c) v Paulo Costa (2) for the UFC middleweight championship
Dominick Reyes (1) v Jan Blachowicz (3) for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title
Strawweight: Cláudia Gadelha (6) v Yan Xiaonan (10)
Flyweight: Kai Kara-France (7) v Brandon Royval (10)
Lightweight: Brad Riddell v Alex da Sliva
Featherweight: Shane Young v Nate Landwehr
Welterweight: Jake Matthews v Diego Sanchez
Featherweight: Hakeem Dawodu v Zubaira Tukhugov
The UFC is yet to reveal a location for the card, though it is believed it will be held in Abu Dhabi.