The UFC is in search of a new main event on April 17 after Paulo Costa has reportedly withdrawn from his matchup against Robert Whittaker. The news of Costa’s withdraw was first reported by Ag. Fight, and later confirmed by MMA Fighting. According to the report, Costa will have to withdraw due to what is being labeled a severe case of the flu, which is holding him back from getting in the training necessary to take on the former champion, Whittaker.
In the report from MMA Fighting it was said that one option the UFC has is to move the main event fight to either May 1 or May 8, and that would put them in a completely new search for the main event on April 17. The fight would have been Costa’s first fight since he lost to middleweight champion Israel Adesanya back at UFC 253 last September.
Before his loss to Adesanya, Costa was 13-0 in his professional MMA career and picked up wins in the UFC over the likes of Yoel Romero, Uriah Hall, and Johny Hendricks. The fight against Whittaker had major title implications in the middleweight division as currently Costa was ranked second in the division while Whittaker was first, making it a true title eliminator.
Robert Whittaker is currently riding a two-fight win streak, securing victories over Jared Cannonier and Darren Till in 2020, cementing his place at the top of the division. While the current champion Adesanya owns victories over both Whittaker and Paulo Costa, the fight between the two would’ve put them as the clear favorite to run it back against Adesanya.
The UFC has not commented on Costa having to withdraw, but it appears there are a few options in place, move the fight back a few weeks and get a new main event for April 17, or find a replacement for Costa and keep Whittaker on the card.