Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker 2 has felt like a clear and obvious booking for most of the last year. Even before defeating Kelvin Gastelum in April, Whittaker’s wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier seemed to solidify the fact that the former middleweight champion was once again an obvious top contender.
The unfortunate realities of the COVID-19 pandemic (and more particularly the travel restrictions that fighters in New Zealand and Australia have been experiencing) may have delayed the whole process. But, when the UFC finally announced that the bout would be taking place in February, at UFC 271, no one batted an eye. Well, no one other than Israel Adesanya apparently.
Despite the fact that even his own management was advertising the announcement, the ‘Last Stylebender’ took to Twitter with a simple, one-emoji reaction to the UFC’s big news.
— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) December 12, 2021
However, if Adesanya is calling this a ‘cap’ (lie) then UFC president Dana White sounds like he’s been left entirely confused. When asked about Adesanya’s reaction during the UFC 269 post-fight presser, White’s reaction was swift. If Adesanya didn’t want to fight Whittaker, the promotion would move on.
“Listen, if he doesn’t want to fight Whittaker, OK, then I guess we’ll find another fight,” White said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “Who gives a shit? I definitely don’t give a sh*t. You don’t want the Whittaker fight to be on? OK, then find something else.”
“Why would we lie?” he added. “When have we ever fucking lied? This fight’s coming up...we lied about it? Twenty fucking years, have we ever lied about making a fight? Some fights are harder to make than others, but I don’t think we’ve ever lied about making a fight. Why would we lie about that fight?”
And if that doesn’t sound quite like a note of serious concern, shortly afterward, when asked about Julianna Pena, White admitted he was still stewing on this new wrinkle in the middleweight title picture. “My head’s still all fucked-up from Adesanya,” the UFC boss revealed before moving on.
As for what the holdup might be, Adesanya’s coach Eugene Bareman recently suggested that they may want to delay fighting Whittaker until they can make the bout happen in Australia. UFC 271 is currently set to take place in Houston.
“Maybe we’re working on something different. Maybe if we can delay this Robert fight by a few months, we can have it in a big stadium in Australia,” Bareman explained. “Maybe that’s the right thing to do. And that’s fine. Let’s get everybody around together and let’s push Robert back a bit. I’m sure Robert would love to do this fight in a massive stadium on home turf. Let’s put someone else in this February slot. You don’t know, and I’m not willing to confirm that.”
The PPV card lineup has yet to be made official. Currently Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 is set to be the event’s headliner. But that may very well be subject to change in the coming weeks, if the promotion can’t get the champ on board.