Throughout his UFC career, Cuban middleweight Yoel Romero has made a named for himself as the bogeyman of the division.

In 17 career fights, the 42-year-old has a 13-4 record with 11 of his 13 wins coming by knockout. Add to that his silver medal in wrestling from the 2000 Olympic Games and Romero is a tough match up for anyone.

So when the consensus No1 contender in the middleweight division, Brazil's Paulo Costa, was sidelined due to bicep surgery, it made sense for Kiwi champion Israel Adesanya to call out the crushing Cuban.

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UFC: Israel Adesanya sets sights on Yoel Romero for first middleweight title defence

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"He's the bogeyman, quote unquote, of the division so they say," Adesanya told the Herald.

"He's the guy that everyone says they don't want to fight. Even (middleweight contender) Darren Till, funnily enough, is admitting he'd rather not fight that guy...I don't see it."

Adesanya (18-0) will defend his UFC middleweight title against Romero in the headline bout at UFC 248 in Las Vegas on March 8 (NZT). It will be Adesanya's first defence since become undisputed middleweight champion, and his second with the belt after claiming the interim title in April last year before unifying the belts in October.

The fight against Romero has been in the works for the last couple of months, with Adesanya's camp quick to identify their ideal challenger after Costa was ruled out.

Yoel Romero has won 11 of his 13 career wins by knockout. Photo / Getty Images
Yoel Romero has won 11 of his 13 career wins by knockout. Photo / Getty Images

However, the process of getting the contracts signed was drawn out as they worked to reach a deal that was agreeable to all parties, with the bout confirmed by the UFC during the broadcast of UFC 246 on Sunday (NZT).

UFC 248 will now feature two title fights, with women's strawweight champion Weili Zheng welcoming a challenge from former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, while another middleweight contender could stake their claim to a title shot in the future earlier on the card.

Initially, former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was scheduled to fight hard hitting American Jared Cannonier on the card. However, Whittaker withdrew from the fight due to personal reasons and the UFC are now looking for a replacement.

It's be a fight Adesanya will be keeping an eye on, and he knows who he would like to see take Whittaker's place.

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"There's TVs in the locker room, so I'll see what happens in that fight. Jared is a dark horse, unfortunately Rob's out now, so I'm hoping Darren Till gets that fight."

Upcoming fights for Kiwi UFC stars

UFC 247 - Houston, February 9

Heavyweight: Justin Tafa v Juan Adams

UFC Fight Night 168 - Auckland, February 23
Lightweight: Dan Hooker v Paul Felder (five-round main event)
Flyweight: Kai Kara-France v Tyson Nam
Lightweight: Brad Riddell v Magomed Mustafaev
Heavyweight: Ben Sosoli v Marcos Rogério de Lima

UFC 248 - Las Vegas, March 8
Middleweight: Israel Adesanya v Yoel Romero (five-round main event)