Adesanya, Whittaker to square off in Melbourne

Author
Christopher Reive - NZ Herald,
Section
Sport News,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 24 July 2019, 2:20PM

The showdown for the undisputed UFC middleweight championship now has a home, with Melbourne's Marvel Stadium confirmed to host UFC 243 on October 6.

After Kiwi star Israel Adesanya won the interim middleweight title in April, calls came for an undisputed title bout against Kiwi-born middleweight Robert Whittaker in Australia. The fight was booked to headline the card and was confirmed earlier in the month, however no venue had been made official.

The UFC had planned to host the event in Las Vegas, but with two Anzac talents headlining the card, the company will return to Melbourne for the second time this year to capitalise on what shapes up as one of the biggest combat sports events Oceania has seen.

"It's going to be out of this world," Whittaker said.

"I think it's going to be one of the biggest combat sporting events in the Oceania and Australasian area ever...it's definitely going to be the biggest one to date.

Whittaker claimed the interim championship in July 2017 with a unanimous decision win over Cuban Yoel Romero. He was later promoted to undisputed champion when Georges St-Pierre vacated the title after being diagnosed with colitis - an inflammatory reaction in the colon.

Injury and illness has limited Whittaker to just one fight since then, again against Romero, where he took a split decision win in a non-title fight.

It was an illness early in 2019 that opened the door for Adesanya to swoop in to the title picture. Whittaker was forced to withdraw from a title defence against American Kelvin Gastelum in Melbourne in February after undergoing stomach surgery. While he was recovering, the UFC booked a fight between Gastelum and Adesanya for the interim middleweight title, after the Kiwi had rocketed through the rankings.

Adesanya met Gastelum in Atlanta in April and claimed the interim title with a unanimous decision win.

After having to withdraw from two fights booked on Australian soil in the past, Whittaker assures he would be ready to go come October 6.

"I'm doing everything I can to make sure I'm ready for the date. I'm feeling the strongest and fittest I've ever been. I look to finally put on a show.

"The amount of time I've had off was, I think, necessary just for my mind and body; to really recuperate myself a little bit more, just get stronger and get better. I feel that I've done that and I look forward to my performance in October…I'm itching, mate, I really am."

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