UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has a date set for his next dance in the octagon.
After a successful title defence in March against Yoel Romero, Adesanya will put his title on the line again in September against unbeaten Brazilian Paulo Costa.
While the UFC is yet to officially announce the fight, Brazilian news outlet Combate reported the fight was in the works on Sunday morning, and sources tell the Herald the bout is locked in for UFC 253 on September 20 (NZ time).
Since Adesanya (19-0) won the belt from Robert Whittaker last October in Melbourne, Costa (13-0) emerged as the top contender to fight for the title next; a bout between two undefeated fighters with strike-heavy approaches being an easy sell for the promotion.
However, Costa was forced to undergo bicep surgery late last year, which ruled him out for months and saw Romero jump the queue for the first shot at Adesanya's throne.
A venue for the bout between Adesanya and Costa is yet to be set, however the Herald understands Yas Island, colloquially referred to as Fight Island, in Abu Dhabi appears to be the most likely option.
The Island has played host to the last three UFC events, and was set up by the UFC due to border restrictions around the world limiting the opportunities to get international fighters booked.
Members of Auckland's City Kickboxing gym have already had the Fight Island experience, with coach Eugene Bareman and UFC lightweight Brad Riddell in the corner of featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski for his recent title defence against Max Holloway.
However, an argument could be made to bring the event to New Zealand, after recent comments from UFC boss Dana White who said "I'm hearing that in New Zealand they're doing things with fans, so it's possible", when asked if the promotion would return to either Australia or New Zealand this year.
New Zealand is one of the only countries in the world to be in a position to host the event in front of a full crowd, and Saturday night's sold-out King in the Ring show in Auckland shows the interest in combat sports is there.
Since the UFC returned to action in early May they have held 11 events with no live crowd, and the promise of gate takings is a big positive in bringing another event to New Zealand. However, it is unlikely to work out logistically, with all those involved - fighters, coaches, UFC staff, set-up crew - having to quarantine for two weeks beforehand, should the Government sign off on it.
UFC senior vice president of international and content David Shaw told ESPN: "Looking at how the world is responding and recovering from the pandemic, it could be that Australia and New Zealand may be the first real options for UFC to host events and welcome fans back - and that would be the first step required for us to consider our return."