Former middleweight champion Whittaker (24-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC) is schedule to face Costa (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in the Feb. 17 middleweight co-main event at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. (Pay-per-view, ESPN, ESPN+).
Whittaker and Costa were originally scheduled to fight at UFC 284, but the fight fell through due to Costa failing to come to terms on a new deal with the UFC brass. Sonnen said he has no inside scoop, but based on both fighters having multiple fights scrapped throughout their career, Sonnen has an inkling that the upcoming fight doesn’t happen.
“If you were just to guess, I’ve had a couple fights in my life where I’ve seen them and read about them and thought, ‘That’s not going to happen,’ and that was my reaction,” Sonnen said on his YouTube channel. “I loved them and they were exciting, possibly a situation where it was too good to be true but there was something about it, I didn’t feel it was going to happen.”
Sonnen said he had the same gut feeling when Jon Jones was scheduled to defend his light heavyweight title against Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 in 2015. The fight never happened after Jones was involved in a hit-and-run before the fight, which resulted in him being stripped of his UFC title and suspended indefinitely.
“I was asked what I thought about Jon Jones and ‘Rumble’ Johnson,” Sonnen recalled. “And I simply responded, ‘That fight will not happen.’ That was it, and a couple of weeks later, the fight blows up and it doesn’t happen. I didn’t have any inside scoop, I just never felt that that fight was going to happen.
“I didn’t ever believe that those two were going to walk out there and for what reasons now, can’t fully remember. I am not that bullish on Paulo Costa vs. Robert Whittaker. I am not that bullish, but boy it’s along the same vein. It doesn’t feel like those guys are getting ready to fight.”
Moreover, Sonnen questions the lead-up to the fight. He doesn’t think Whittaker and Costa are promoting the bout enough, especially for a co-main event of a pay-per-view.
“I will make an observation, and that observation is that Paulo Costa and Robert Whittaker are not behaving, and are not actively doing what other guys put in the same position that are three weeks, closing in on a fight that’s televised and monetized on pay-per-view,” Sonnen said. “They are not doing what two opponents generally would do, that are going to plan to face each other.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 298.