UFC president Dana White has never been one to mince words, and after his UFC 248 main event turned into the biggest dud in recent memory, he said it as straight as it could be said.
”This was a terrible fight.”
Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero did a whole lot of nothing across 25 minutes en route to Adesanya retaining the UFC middleweight championship in a fight that took all the steam out of a building that had just been buzzing after a blood and guts fight of the year performance from the strawweight championship bout between Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
”Well there’s two things,” White said at the UFC 248 post-fight press conference. “That was a tough act to follow after the co-main event. And then I beleive that Israel Adesanya fights to the level of his opponent. The Anderson Silva fight was similar to that and then you think about the Gastelum fight which was a war. Gastelum goes after him and tries to take his head off. Whittaker goes after him trying to take his head off and that fight was great. And Paulo Costa’s gonna go after him and that fight should be ridiculous.”
White made it clear that he placed most of the blame on the main event going how it did on Yoel Romero. “The Soldier of God” has been known to switch between passive and aggressive in the past, but never to the degree he did against Adesanya. Romero threw just 89 strikes across five rounds. Adesanya responded with a similarly aneimic 132 strikes thrown.
”I’m shocked that Romero knew this was his last opportunity at a world championship,” White continued. “I thought he was going to come out like a bat out of hell, put tons of pressure on him, shoot takedowns, try to knock him out. He did literally none of that. So if you’re Adesanya, he fought the smart fight. He stood on the outside and chopped that leg apart. He picked his punches and did what he did. Romero did a lot of moving around and acting like he was trying to fight, but he never did.”
”Right from the bell he just came out and stood there with his hands up. Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I thought he was going to come out like a madman. Yeah, this was a terrible fight. If you look at the UFC as a whole for as long as we’ve been doing it, you can literally put in one hand the s**tty fights that we’ve done. And it takes two to fight, man. If somebody goes out there and doesn’t want to engage and doesn’t want to fight.... And if you’re a guy like Adesanya, you’ve got so much more on the line. This is the way the guys acting? He’s gonna stay back and pick him apart the way he did. That leg was destroyed.”
”You’re going in and facing the world champion,” White said later. “This is your last shot at a championship. You shouldn’t even be here getting this title fight, it should be Paulo Costa. He didn’t get hurt, you don’t even get this opportunity. You go in, you do everything you can to win that fight. He literally did none of that. A path back to the title after that performance? You’re crazy even asking that question. He looked terrible. He literally gave up an opportunity tonight. Maybe he comes back in his next fight and looks like Yoel Romero. But if he doesn’t? I don’t expect him to fight another ten years looking like that.”
But one thing he does expect: a wild fight between Israel Adesanya and the next middleweight in line, Paulo Costa. Costa could be seen cageside during the main event and actually had to be removed from the floor because he jumped the crowd barrier to try and start something with Adesanya after his win.
”When I’m sitting here today talking about this, the matchmakers didn’t love that [Romero] fight and didn’t want to make that fight,” White said. “They did not want to make Adesanya vs. Romero. But the goofy fan in me said ‘Are you shitting me? Come on. This’ll be a fun fight to do. And the fact that he wants to fight a guy that nobody else wants to fight? Now ... hindsight is 20/20. We shouldn’t have done that fight. We should have waited for Costa. Oh well. We did it.”
”The Costa fight is going to be insane. The Costa fight will be ridiculous. Costa will come forward, he will throw big punches, he will throw combinations. He will not stop punching. And Israel Adesanya’s going to have to fight him. I’m telling you right now just like I told you Zhang vs. Joanna was going to be insane? Costa vs. Adesanya will be a ridiculous fight. I guarantee it. I absolutely positively guarantee it.”
White’s final words on the matter?
”Listen guys, the fight sucked,” White concluded. “But you just came off the craziest s**t you ever seen in your life. The energy in that building was through the roof. Those guys, they were walking into a no win situation as it was. I don’t think it was so bad that ‘God, the ref should have done this,’ I thought the ref did a good job. There were a couple times when they weren’t engaging and that was probably when he told them to fight, but ... tough act to follow. After watching that last fight, it was a tough situation for both of them to be in. But yes, the fight sucked.”