UFC 263: Israel Adesanya Set to Defend Title in Rematch with Marvin Vettori

Israel Adesanya, UFC 259 press conference
Israel Adesanya Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

After campaigning for the fight for months and compiling the best run of his career, Italy’s Marvin Vettori has had his wish granted. At UFC 263, Vettori will challenge old foe Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title.

UFC President Dana White confirmed the news to ESPN, following an initial report by Brazilian outlet Combate.

Vettori (17-4-1) has not tasted defeat since his loss to Adesanya in 2018, a fight that ended in a close split decision. Both fighters were young in their UFC runs at the time: for Vettori, it was just his fifth fight inside the octagon. For Adesanya, only his second.

As “The Last Stylebender” went on an impressive run that took him to the title, Vettori doggedly pursued the champ. Five straight wins over increasingly strong competition made the case for a title shot, especially after a defeat of Jack Hermansson last year in Vettori’s first headlining assignment. Just a few weeks ago, the Italian was set to fight Darren Till. After Till pulled out, Vettori fought to a one-sided decision against short-notice replacement Kevin Holland.

The only knock on Vettori in his UFC run has been his tendency to go the distance. Outside of a submission win in his 2016 octagon debut, “The Italian Dream” has just one other stoppage: a submission of Karl Roberson, it a fight that was essentially a grudge match.

Adesanya (20-1) will enter the UFC 263 main event coming off a loss to Jan Blachowicz, in a failed bid to secure a second title at light heavyweight. The defeat was the first of Adesanya’s MMA career. The fight renewed questions about how the Auckland, New Zealand-based fighter will handle a grappling-heavy opponent, despite the middleweight champ giving up a considerable weight differential to Blachowicz.

Along his run to the top, Adesanya got the better of Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, and others, before winning the title against Robert Whittaker in 2019. He has successfully defended the belt twice, against Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa. Speaking of Whittaker, who recently defeated Gastelum, per ESPN, “The Reaper” will face the winner of Adesanya vs. Vettori.

UFC 263 is set to take place June 12, 2021, though no official location or venue has been set. A second title fight on the card will see a flyweight title fight rematch, as Deiveson Figueiredo once again throws down with Brandon Moreno.