Israel Adesanya's first title defense has been set.
The UFC middleweight champion will fight Yoel Romero in the main event of UFC 248 in Las Vegas on March 7, UFC president Dana White said, according to ESPN's Brett Okamoto.
The undefeated Adesanya (18-0) was initially supposed to face off with Paulo Costa. The Brazilian cemented himself as the No. 1 contender by beating Romero (13-4) via unanimous decision in August, only to later suffer a biceps injury that was expected to sideline him for eight months.
While Costa appears to be closing in on a return, Adesanya has made it clear he wants to be highly active in his first year as the 185-pound king, and he apparently didn't want to push back his March target date.
Shortly after Costa's injury was revealed in October, Adesanya called out Romero on social media.
Adesanya knocked out former champion Robert Whittaker in a unification bout in October to win the undisputed belt, announcing himself as the UFC's newest star.
Romero has lost three of his last four fights. But in addition to the razor-close defeat to Costa, the Cuban took Whittaker to the scorecards twice, losing the second bout via split decision.
Prior to the first Whittaker fight, the 42-year-old Romero had won eight straight bouts. In between the contests against Whittaker, he knocked out former champion Luke Rockhold.
The co-main event of UFC 248 will also have a first-time defending champion, as women's strawweight queen Zhang Weili will fight Joanna Jedrzejczyk.