Israel Adesanya looks set to defend his middleweight title against Sean Strickland at UFC 293 in September.
Adesanya regained the 185lb crown from Alex Pereira earlier this year, and looked set to make his first defence of his regained crown against South African Dricus du Plessis in the main event of the card in Sydney, Australia.
The two men clashed in the Octagon moments after du Plessis had beaten former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, setting up the potential fight, but it was later confirmed that the South African would not be ready for the Sydney card.
That left UFC officials scrambling to find an opponent for ‘The Last Stylebender’, and it now appears as though they have found their man.
Sean Strickland, who has a history for taking fights at short notice, has fought twice already this year, rebounding from his losses to Alex Pereira and Jared Cannonier.
He beat NassourdineImavov on points at light-heavyweight in January, less than one month after his loss to Cannonier, and when he returned to middleweight back in July he knocked out Abus Magomedov in the second round to move further into title contention.
It now looks increasingly likely that his third outing of 2023 will see him compete for the middleweight crown, with his trainer previously suggesting a deal could be struck soon between his fighter and the UFC.
“All signs are pointing in a good direction [for Adesanya vs Strickland],” Eric Nicksick told Submission Radio. “Right now, all [Strickland]’s working on is getting his visa in order.
“But the fight… the signs look like it’s a yes. It’s all pointing in a good direction. It hasn’t been official yet, so we’re still in a holding pattern.
“We’re just kind of at the mercy of the visa process, but he said all parties involved are on board. We haven’t talked any logistics as far as numbers go until that visa gets done, and then that would be the next hurdle.
“But I don’t think it would be that difficult of a hurdle to cross… the business kicks in and I think we’ll be good to go.”
If the fight is confirmed, Strickland is expected to go into it as a sizeable underdog according to Stake betting, given Adesanya’s dominance of the division in recent years.
The Nigerian-born fighter, who now competes out of New Zealand, is 10-2 in UFC title fights.
He came up short when he challenged Jan Blachowicz for the light-heavyweight title back in March 2021, while his most recent defeat was the knockout loss to Alex Pereira in November 2022 that cost him the middleweight belt.
Adesanya was able to avenge that loss in April though, stopping Pereira with strikes in the second round.