Following a tremendous performance at UFC 236, the UFC is hoping to pit Israel Adesanya against Robert Whittaker in a stadium in Australia.
Fresh off a huge night in Atlanta with UFC 236, UFC President Dana White is thinking big. Stadium-sized, even. White was in an upbeat mood following Saturday’s event, and for good reason. Two interim title fights topped the card, and both delivered. The co-main event, in particular, sets up an Australian/New Zealand showdown between champ Robert Whittaker and newly minted interim champ Israel Adesanya.
Adesanya’s meteoric rise has been breathtaking to behold. He burst onto the scene just over a year ago at UFC 221. ‘The Last Stylebender’ was a decorated kickboxing champ, but many expected him to struggle when he ran up against a top wrestler in the UFC.
So far, it hasn’t happened. Adesanya (17-0) faced just that Saturday against Kelvin Gastelum, and although he struggled at times with Gastelum’s power, the grappling side of things never really slowed him down. A five round unanimous decision win was the outcome, and the Nigerian fighting out of his adopted New Zealand now has UFC gold around his waist.
A middleweight unification bout with Whittaker is next. And it will come down under, White revealed post-fight Saturday in Atlanta. “We were going to do that fight here, I wanted that fight in the United States,” he admitted.
Seeing the outcome of the UFC 236 co-main event, however, has changed that plan. “We’re definitely not doing that fight in the United States. That fight’s going to Australia. It will be massive in Australia.”
A timetable isn’t set just yet. “We gotta figure all that stuff out. I just put my guys on that tonight,” White told reporters. “That’s their homework for this weekend. Get us an arena. Stadium, not an arena. Stadium, in Australia.”
That’s thinking big, however, seeing the reaction to Adesanya vs. Gastelum, it’s far from a gamble. The UFC has hosted a stadium show in Australia before, after all. UFC 193 was topped by Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm, at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia in November 2015. It set an attendance record for the promotion, with 56,214 fans taking in the event.