MMA: 'I'm going to sleep that guy': Israel Adesanya fires warning shot at rival Paulo Costa

Kiwi UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has made his intentions loud and clear with regards to title challenger in waiting, Paulo Costa.

With his maiden title defence against Yoel Romero now behind him - a fight he called the "weirdest" of his career - Adesanya has shifted his attention to the Brazilian, who's a lock as the next contender to his throne.

The two have developed a bitter rivalry, and have exchanged plenty of verbal and social media jabs. With that fight now on the horizon, Adesanya has promised to ramp up his offensive.

"You know, when there's a bull and there's a matador, you can poke at it and get an ultimate reaction?" Adesanya told ESPN's Ariel Helwani. "It's exactly that.

"He's a guy that I don't have to poke that much, I don't have to prod. I'm going to have fun with the press conference with this one.

"I'm going to have fun with the lead-up. I'm going to have fun with poking the bear."

'The Eraser' was cageside during Adesanya's lacklustre win over Romero, where he created a spectacle with his taunts towards both fighters. 

Security was forced to escort him backstage, after he vaulted the railing and made a beeline for the cage, once the fight had ended.

In a press conference after the fight, he unleashed another tirade of abuse towards the Nigerian-born New Zealander, who he referred to as a "dirty Kiwi" in an Instagram post, after Adesanya's regrettable 9/11 'Twin Towers' reference a fortnight ago.

"Horrible fight," Costa told MMA Junkie. "I was ashamed to watch that fight. 

"Adesanya is nothing. Adesanya is the most shameful champion I have ever seen.

"He just runs. He's nothing, he's scared.

"I will make him cry. I will hit him very badly and he will cry like a baby." 

Costa was originally lined up as the first challenger for Adesanya's belt, until a torn bicep forced him out of the picture.

On Tuesday (NZ time), Adesanya responded with a typically emphatic prediction for the outcome of their inevitable contest.

"He knows who the champion is," he said. "He has to stir a narrative or something, but that fight is going to be easy.

"That's going to be a finish. I'll finish that f**ker." 

The 30-year-old said Costa's aggressive, no-holds-barred style of fighting would make him easy pickings.

"He's too emotional. I already know how that fight's going to go - I'm going to sleep that guy.

"I've had a lot of kickboxing fights... his reach, his arms when he lets them down reach his waist. I'll pick him apart.

"He's a guy that I'll definitely jab, pick apart, catch him and then knock him out."

Adesanya has tabled the UFC's annual International Fight Week pay-per-view in July as a date for the two to settle matters in the Octagon.

UFC boss Dana White was reluctant to commit to any dates, pending Costa's official medical clearance to return to combat, but was giddy over the prospect of the two going toe-to-toe.

"You better believe Paulo Costa is going to go after him," White said. "That fight should be ridiculous."