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UFC: Israel Adesanya’s Title Fight Against Robert Whittaker Delayed Because of Covid-19

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will likely have to wait until 2022 to defend his title against Robert Whittaker, with Covid having cruelled their proposed Madison Square Garden blockbuster.

According to News Corp Australia, UFC officials had pencilled in Nigerian-born Kiwi, Adesanya’s hyped title rematch against Kiwi-born Australian Whittaker for UFC 268 in New York in November.

However, because of the current quarantining situation in both Australia and New Zealand, it is understood the headliner could now be delayed until early next year.

Speaking on Thursday, Whittaker’s manager Titus Day confirmed the middleweight showdown was set to be booked for ‘The Garden’ on November 7.

He added, however, that while both fighters had no problems getting into New York for the showdown, there had been issues surrounding Team Adesanya then getting permission to re-enter New Zealand after the event was over.

Israel Adesanya beat Robert Whittaker via TKO in their first meeting in 2019. Photo / Photosport
Israel Adesanya beat Robert Whittaker via TKO in their first meeting in 2019. Photo / Photosport

As a result, UFC 268 will now be topped with a title fight between welterweight champ Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington.

“Rob had been told he would be fighting at Madison Square Garden,” Day confirmed. “But there have been some issues since and it can’t happen.

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“Apparently, Adesanya could get into America for the fight, but he wouldn’t have been able to get back to NZ immediately afterwards (because of quarantine restrictions).

“So while we know the fight is going to happen, it’s now become a matter of when.

“Unfortunately, given everything going on with Covid in Australia and New Zealand at the moment, it may not be until early next year.”

Initially, Adesanya had pushed for the bout to be held at Auckland’s Eden Park.

However, UFC boss Dana White was keen to hold the blockbuster in New York for what is traditionally one of the company’s biggest cards of the year.

Speaking on Newstalk ZB this week, Adesanya gave little detail on when the fight may take place, saying only “no date has been set yet”.

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Photo / Getty
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Photo / Getty

Apart from using the additional time off to work on his strength – “I’m lifting a lot lately if you haven’t noticed” – the Kiwi also revealed he was having no problem staying motivated.

“(There’s) a quote I’ve been revisiting the last few months: ‘When you sleep in silk sheets it’s hard to get up in the morning’,” he said. “A lot of people in my position wouldn’t show up again until they have their next fight locked up.

“But I’m showing up to upgrade my skills and help my teammates who help me over the years. What keeps me going? It’s the passion. It’s the thirst for knowledge. I’m not done.

“I haven’t hit the limit yet. It’s endless.

“These people don’t understand what’s coming. Against Robert, the first three moves I make on the chessboard … he’s going to second-guess himself. He’s going to third-guess himself.”

Quizzed on training, he continued: “All I’m doing right now is upgrading the software and helping my teammates.

“They constantly put their bodies on the line and put their time on the line for me.

“Right now I’ve got an opponent locked in but we don’t have a date yet. It’s on the way but in the meantime I’ve got a few months to kill and get better at martial arts.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s UFC featherweight champ Alex Volkanovski is training inside a Wollongong ‘bubble’ as he prepares to defend against American Brian Ortega at UFC 266 in Las Vegas on September 26.

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