Adesanya sure of beating Whittaker in front of his home fans
• Family relocates to Melbourne
• Fight tickets almost sold out
The UFC 243 undisputed middleweight title clash between Nigerian-born Israel Adesanya and New Zealand-born Australian, Robert Whittaker is living up to its tag of biggest event in Australasian combat sports history, as tickets for the bout are almost sold out.
The fight will hold on Sunday at the 60,000 capacity Marvel Stadium in Melbourne and is generating interest from sports lovers across the globe.
To give their son the morale boost to conquer Whittaker on Sunday, Adesanya’s family members, including his father, mother, brothers and sisters relocated from their base in New Zealand a few days ago to Melbourne, venue of the fight.
His father, Femi Adesanya told The Guardian yesterday that tickets for the fight were almost sold out. “We are already in Melbourne and I can tell you that tickets for the fight at the 60,000 capacity stadium are almost sold out. Israel is in high spirit and his camp is sure of victory on Sunday,” the senior Adesanya stated.
Whittaker will be making his first appearance in 16 months in Melbourne after he pulled out of his last two scheduled bouts on home soil.
‘The Last Stylenbeder,’ as Adesanya is called by his fans, stormed through his first six UFC bouts in 14 months, extending his overall MMA record to 17-0, to claim the interim title in Atlanta, the USA in April, while Whittaker (20-4) was recovering from an abdominal hernia.
Ahead of the battle of Melbourne on Sunday, Adesanya has warned that he would deplore everything against Whittaker. He is optimistic about walking away with the title in front of Whittaker’s home fans.
“There is no substitute for competing at the highest level under the weight of expectation,” Adesanya told Stuff. “Pressure is an acquired taste. It’s something that I’ve been deliciously chomping on for the last 20-plus months and something he hasn’t been feeling.”
Speaking further, Adesanya said: “He’s been trying to mimic it by doing all these wrestling tournaments here and there to get ready for competition but it’s not the same. Fighting in a hall with 50 people or fighting in a stadium with 60,000 people who are expecting you to win, who you don’t want to let down – it’s all on you. He doesn’t know how to deal with that and I’ve acquired that taste for so long, I’m used to it.”
Unbeaten in his last nine fights on the way to becoming Australia’s first UFC champion, there is no doubting Whittaker’s credentials.
However, injury and illness have limited him to just two fights in two years. But Adesanya’s swift rise has put the pair on a collision course, with the trans-Tasman showdown tipped to break the UFC attendance record at the 60,000-capacity Marvel Stadium in Melbourne on Sunday.
Adesanya had a taste of the hostile reception that awaits him on Sunday during last month’s promotional tour in Melbourne, with one particular fan, equipped with a megaphone, constantly heckling him.
Regardless of the crowd’s reaction, Adesanya plans to use it to his advantage. But given the length of time Whittaker has been sidelined, Adesanya again questioned if he was best placed to handle the occasion.“I’m used to it but at the end of the day, it’s all energy. People are directing all their energy towards me,” Adesanya said.
“Whether it be cheers or boos, it’s all how you use it and that’s one thing he’s not used to. He’s going to walk out hearing rumbles, cheers and he hasn’t been used to that. So it’s going to be a rude awakening for him.”Adesanya is one of four New Zealand fighters on the card along with Dan Hooker, who features in the co-main event against Al Iaquinta, Luke Jumeau and debutant Brad Riddell. The latter was in Adesanya’s corner when he made his UFC bow in February 2018.