Robert Whittaker can cement himself as Australia’s most popular fighter this Sunday, with his hyped UFC 271 headliner tipped to break national Pay-Per-View records.
Already boasting the title of Australia’s first UFC champion, Whittaker is now trending to set a new mark for the biggest UFC card headlined by an Aussie when he rematches middleweight king Israel Adesanya in Houston, Texas.
Should the Sydneysider reclaim the gold strap he lost Adesanya in 2019, and set up a blockbuster trilogy bout, he could then challenge for Anthony Mundine’s old tag of our undisputed PPV King.
FIGHT TIME – 2pm AEDT Sunday Feb 13
WHERE: Toyota Centre, Houston, Texas
Watch UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker LIVE on Main Event available on Kayo & Foxtel, Sunday 13th February from 2pm AEDT. ORDER NOW >
In fact, UFC executives argue their figures show the No.1 middleweight contender already heads an exciting new field which includes the likes of Tim Tszyu, Paul Gallen, George Kambosos Jnr and Alexander Volkanovski.
While Main Event rarely reveals its fight numbers publicly, or compares figures across sports, UFC senior executive David Shaw insists the fighter dubbed Bobby Knuckles is already top of the pile Down Under thanks to his drawing power not only locally, but globally, on a variety of streaming services.
“From what we see, it’s clear Whittaker is the number one Pay-Per-View star in Australia,” said Shaw, the UFC Senior Vice President, International & Content.
“He’s the biggest name representing Australian combat sports and the fighter fans want to see most.
“And now his rematch with Israel Adesanya, it’s a genuine top of the division fight, with Rob looking to avenge the only loss he’s had over the past eight years.
“Only a trilogy fight could top this.”
Whittaker’s agent Titus Day agreed, adding his charge also had a far larger global reach than his boxing rivals.
“This is the fight that cements Rob as Australia’s No.1 fighter,” he said.
“Throughout the Covid pandemic, the UFC has gone into another stratosphere both globally and here in Australia. And Rob Whittaker is our face of that.
“On Instagram alone, he has over one million followers.”
When Whittaker and Adesanya met for the first time at UFC 243, the pair brought in a live gate of almost 60,000 fans, or over $5 million dollars – a UFC record — while the global PPV audience has been estimated at 500,000.
That figure is expected to increase again this weekend.
His Instagram numbers are also double that of anyone else in the field, which also includes the likes of Olympian Harry Garside, the Moloney twins and cult UFC heavyweight Tai Tuivasa.
Elsewhere, Tszyu’s international profile is also set to explode in March, when the undefeated super welterweight makes his US fight against Olympian Terrell Gausha — with a win set to put him in line for a shot at the undisputed title.
Notably, another Australian rising quickly in the popularity stakes is UFC featherweight champ Volkanovski, whose PPV pulling power has seriously increased after consecutive title defences against Max Holloway and Brian Ortega — the last of which is said to have done huge numbers on Main Event.
Mt Druitt slugger Tuivasa also has to be in the mix thanks to his run of four straight knockouts, each of which has been followed by that now signature ‘Shoey’ celebration.
Better, the Mt Druitt slugger gets to chase a fifth straight KO this Sunday against American favourite Derrick Lewis in Sunday’s UFC 271 co-main.
As far as Australian PPV fight numbers go, Mundine has long been considered the king, with his 2006 showdown against Danny Green drawing an estimated 200,000 viewers.
That is said to have topped even Floyd Mayweather’s big fights against Manny Pacquiao (195,000) and Conor McGregor (190,000), while Mundine’s Green rematch in 2017 also did 100,000 buys.
Next best in boxing was Tim Tszyu vs Jeff Horn (94,000), then Mundine vs Horn (73,000) and Horn v Pacquiao (63,000).