He took Australia’s first UFC title, now Israel Adesanya is gunning to become the nation’s biggest fight headliner.
Only days out from his hyped UFC 271 rematch with Robert Whittaker, Adesanya has opened up on his audacious plan to become an Australian pay-per-view star as soon as August — adamant he doesn’t need his famed arch rival to sell out a stadium Down Under.
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His announcement coincides with UFC executives beginning talks about an Australian Pay-Per-View headliner in the second half of this year, with August being the date whispered as the Federal Government again starts opening the country to overseas tourists.
While it was expected Whittaker would have to win at UFC 271 to force a blockbuster trilogy bout on home soil, Adesanya now says he plans to go it alone, while doubling down on his promise to never fight in New Zealand again.
Speaking with News Corp this week, the UFC middleweight king said a second win over Bobby Knuckles would see him open discussions with the UFC about the prospect of an Aussie stadium fight.
It follows a lengthy, and public, fallout between the NZ government and its fighting superstar over what Adesanya insists has been unfair treatment with COVID-19 restrictions of the Managed Isolation and Quarantine system.
Adesanya says his City Kickboxing gym, and its fighters like Dan Hooker, have not only been treated differently, but even targeted, compared to other high profile sports teams like the All Blacks.
Asked how he headlines in Australia without a Whittaker trilogy, Adesanya shrugged: “It doesn’t have to be Rob.
“It can be someone else.
“I want to do one more stadium fight in Australia.
“Fight in Oceania again.
“That way all the Kiwis who want to watch me can fly over and make it a show, just like they did last time (in 2019).
“Because I’m not going to fight in New Zealand.
“That dream’s dead because of the way they treated Dan Hooker and my team.
Adesanya described as “unfair” the New Zealand government’s treatment of its MMA stars.
“It showed their true colours,” he said. “So we’ll keep that same energy.
“You can’t just be nice to us when we’re winning, when we’re being the best in the world and bringing all this attention and prestige to New Zealand.
“Then try and shun us.
“Treat us differently from the way you treat other sports teams.
“That’s not fair.
“And then (they say) it’s ‘we’re not doing that’.
“But we know you’re doing that.
“But I don’t want to talk too much about all that anyway, it just gets me heated up.”
Asked what it would take to fight in New Zealand again, the Kiwi continued: “I’m not fighting in NZ again.
“Or not unless we get … f …, I’m not.
“They’ll never apologise for what they did.
“So what’s the point?
“And they don’t need me to fight. They’ve got money from rugby, cricket, sailing … but for me it’s about principle.”