Israel Adesanya could soon hold more UFC gold, with a date set for his bout against light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
Speaking to ESPN, UFC president Dana White confirmed the company were booking Adesanya, the reigning middleweight champion, to make the 9kg step up in weight and challenge Poland's Blachowicz at UFC 259 on March 7 (NZ time).
While the fight has been verbally agreed to, contracts are yet to be signed.
The bout will be Blachowicz's first defence of the light heavyweight title, after claiming the vacant belt against American Dominick Reyes in Abu Dhabi in late September last year. It was the same event in which Adesanya defended his middleweight crown against Brazil's Paulo Costa. Both Adesanya and Blachowicz won their fights by second-round stoppages.
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It's a bout that has been in the work for some time. In October, the Herald confirmed Adesanya's camp were set to enter negotiations for the fight as it was the only real challenge available, with Adesanya having decimated the middleweight division. The Nigerian-Kiwi has beaten three of the top five UFC middleweights, and the other two are yet to prove themselves worthy of a title shot following recent losses.
"When you look at the landscape at middleweight, there's nothing," Adesanya's coach Eugene Bareman told the Herald in October.
"We need the next challenge and, for us, that's moving up to 205 and fighting Blachowicz. That's the next biggest challenge in front of us and that's the one we want."
The bout against Blachowicz won't be the first time Adesanya has stepped up in weight class during his professional combat sports career. The 31-year-old has fought at heavyweight in kickboxing, winning the King in the Ring title in the weight class in 2015.
Only seven fighters in UFC history have been champions in multiple division; four of those being simultaneous.
Irish superstar Conor McGregor was the first simultaneous two-weight champion, holding both the featherweight and lightweight titles for a short time in 2016. American Daniel Cormier held the light heavyweight and heavyweight titles in 2018, fellow American Henry Cejudo held the flyweight and bantamweight titles before retiring in 2020, while Brazil's Amanda Nunes is the women's featherweight and bantamweight champion.
Nunes will put her featherweight title on the line against Australian Megan Anderson as part of the same event in which Adesanya and Blachowicz meet.