New UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya won't defend his crown against Brazilian Paulo Costa.
The Kiwi was expected to fight Costa in early 2020, but UFC president Dana White has revealed the undefeated striker is recovering from bicep surgery.
Speaking with 'The Schmo',White said the company was heading in a different direction, rather than wait for Costa to mend.
“He had surgery on his bicep, so he’s out for eight months,” White said. “But we are working on something else with Israel right now.”
White also ruled out a super-fight with light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, stating Adesanya needed to defend his newly won belt, before considering a jump in weight class.
The list of possible candidates is slim, with two former champions and perennial contender Ronaldo Sousa jumping up to light-heavyweight.
Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold suffered violent losses in their divisional debuts, ruling them out of any potential title fight with the City Kickboxing star.
That leaves a rematch with Whittaker as a possibility, although a source close to the situation said that was highly unlikely, given the heavy nature of his UFC 243 defeat.
Former Olympic wrestler Yoel Romero is in the mix, and despite coming off two razor-close decision losses to Whittaker and Costa respectively, Newshub understands he is likely to get the nod, ahead of rising challenger Jared Cannonier, Kelvin Gastelum or Darren Till.
The latter two combatants fight this weekend in New York - both are keen to establish their title credentials.
Meanwhile, Kiwi Dan Hooker looks set to main-event the UFC's third venture into New Zealand in the first quarter of 2020.
'The Hangman' is surging in the lightweight division, winning six of his last seven fights, jumping to No.7 in the rankings.
Newshub understands veteran American Donald Cerrone is the favoured opponent for New Zealand's longest-serving UFC star, although Cerrone has also been linked to a February fight with Conor McGregor.
Two other possibilities are recent title challenger Dustin Poirer and the No.4-ranked Justin Gaethje.