Reigning middleweight champion, Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya is currently targeted to make his return to the division, as well as active competition at UFC 263 on June 12th — with surging contender, Marvin Vettori currently leading the pack to meet with the titleholder in a rematch.
Testing light heavyweight waters in his most recent Octagon outing, Adesanya dropped his first professional mixed martial arts loss, in the form of a unanimous decision defeat to Jan Blachowicz. Challenging for undisputed 205-pound honors, Adesanya failed at his attempt to become a two-weight champion held simultaneously — struggling with the latter round wrestling from the champion.
In his time away, top contenders such as former-foes, Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori have emerged as potential title challengers, with Whittaker scoring a unanimous decision win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24 last weekend, while Vettori took home a one-sided judging triumph over Kevin Holland at UFC on ABC 2 on April 10th.
With Whittaker’s unanimous judging victory, he retained his #1 rank at 185-pounds, notching his third successive unanimous decision win, following victories over both Jared Cannonier and Darren Till in July and October of last year, respectively.
For Vettori, the Trento native managed his fifth straight win since his April 2018 loss to Adesanya, adding Holland to prior successes against Jack Hermansson, Karl Roberson, Andrew Sanchez, and Cezar Ferreira.
Speaking with Bill Simmons, UFC president, Dana White laid out plans for a potential rematch between Adesanya and Vettori on June 12th.
Per ESPN MMA reporter, Ariel Helwani, the promotion is hoping to field Adesanya at the June 12th. pay-per-view event, and that Vettori is the current “frontrunner” to meet with the Nigerian-Kiwi, given the fact the timeline of a two-month turnaround is an issue for Whittaker.
“Of note in this @BillSimmons interview with (Dana) White: looking like like (sic) (Marvin) Vettori could be next for (Israel) Adesanya,” Helwani wrote. “Talks have centered around Adesanya returning June 12, I’m told. Original hope was Adesanya-(Robert) Whittaker 2 on 6/12 but turnaround is too quick for RW. So MV is new frontrunner.“
It appears the promotion is keen to book another title fight for the June 12th. event, with a flyweight championship rematch between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno currently slated to land on the card.
The organization had briefly floated a potential heavyweight championship rematch between incumbent, Francis Ngannou and the streaking, Derrick Lewis to feature at the event, with the timeline surrounding the pairing less than ideal for Ngannou who had just claimed the championship from Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 on March 27th. — as well as his hopes to finally secure a title clash against Jon Jones, amid the public negotiation fallout between the former two-time light heavyweight champion and the UFC.