Israel Adesanya says Robert Whittaker must fly to New Zealand if he wants a rematch for the UFC middleweight title in 2021, with the All Blacks stronghold of Eden Park his preferred venue for the blockbuster.
Almost two years since defeating Australia’s first UFC champion, Adesanya is now gunning for his third straight title defence against Italian Marvin Vettori at UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona on Sunday (AEST).
Should the New Zealander be successful against Vettori, he will then be catapulted into a second fight with Whittaker, who remains the division’s No.1 contender.
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First time the pair fought, it was before almost 60,000 fans at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne — with Adesanya winning via devastating second round KO.
As a result, the fighter dubbed “Stylebender” said this week that if Whittaker wants a shot as challenger, he cannot expect to fight on home soil and must instead travel across the ditch.
Robert Whittaker is keen for a rematch with Israel Adesanya. Picture: AAP ImageSource:AAP
Given the ongoing Covid restrictions in both New Zealand and Australia — and what that would mean for the scores of UFC officials, fighters and teams flying in from all over the world for the rematch — any bout between the pair this year would almost certainly have to take place in America.
However Adesanya insists he will be pushing UFC president Dana White to host the fight in his own backyard, listing Auckland’s 60,000-seat Eden Park as his pick of the venues.
“If that fight happens, we have to do it in New Zealand,” Adesanya said. “And at Eden Park”.
Over nearly 100 years, Eden Park has consistently been the hardest place in the world for international rugby teams, particularly the Wallabies, to beat New Zealand.
Incredibly, the All Blacks winning record at the ground sits at almost 90 per cent. It has also been 35 years since Australia last defeated the Kiwis at Eden Park.
Asked about the growing rivalry between the trans-Tasman fighters, Adesanya said: “He (Whittaker) has gone on record saying he doesn’t like me. And I appreciate that because I don’t like him either. The feeling is definitely mutual.”
Eden Park in Auckland is Israel Adesanya’s preferred venue for a rematch against Robert Whittaker. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Yet before any potential showdown with Bobby Knuckles, the reigning middleweight king must first rematch Vettori, who he beat via split decision in 2018.
While one judge scored their initial encounter for the Italian, Adesanya laughed off suggestions the fight had been even remotely close.
“That first fight, it wasn’t close for anyone who was watching and actually knows anything about fighting,” he said. “He (Vettori) probably took the third round.
“But the first two rounds, I dominated them. And while one judge saw otherwise — through a lack of understanding for the game — that doesn’t mean it was close.”
But as for now having the chance to end all debate for good?
“I look forward to running through him this time and shutting him up,” he said of Vettori. “I’m going to finish him. That way he has no hope of clinging on to anything to say he won.”
Israel Adesanya will defend his middleweight title against Marvin Vettori. Picture: AAP ImageSource:AAP
Since losing to Adesanya, the Italian has won five straight over rivals such as Kevin Holland and Jack Hermansson.
His 31-year-old rival meanwhile, suffered the first loss of his UFC career in March, when he went up a division to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight strap at UFC 259.
Blachowicz won the fight by decision, with Vettori telling media recently he believes Adesanya effectively quit in the fight.
“And let him believe that narrative,” the Kiwi said. “Maybe that’s how he gets to sleep at night. For me, nothing has changed since that loss. Nothing. I still plan to achieve everything I set out to initially. My story isn’t over yet.”
Originally published asAdesanya’s big demand for rematch with Whittaker
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