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Adesanya, Whittaker UFC fight pits New Zealand against Australia

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Israel Adesanya (right) beats his Mexican opponent, Kelvin Gestelum in Atlanta, USA in February. He will face Robert Whittaker for the UFC middleweight title on October 6 in Melbourne, Australia

The ‘big’ fight between Nigerian-born Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim middleweight titleholder, Israel Adesanya and Robert John Whittaker on October 6 in Melbourne will rekindle the sports rivalry between New Zealand and Australia.

While Adesanya, who hails from Odogbolu, Ogun State, Nigeria, is representing his adopted country, New Zealand, Whittaker, on the other hand, will fly the flag of Australia, though he was born in New Zealand.

Whittaker was supposed to defend the title against Kelvin Gastelum in February this year at UFC 234, but he (Whittaker) pulled out of the fight after he was forced to undergo emergency dual surgery due to an abdominal hernia of the intestine and a twisted and collapsed bowel.

Adesanya stepped up for the fight in April in Atlanta, the U.S., where he forced some bitter pills down the throat of the Mexican fighter, Kelvin Gastelum, to claim the UFC interim middleweight title.

Now, the stage is set for the big fight tagged ‘Champion versus Champion in Melbourne, and the Nigerian says there is nothing to worry about.

Israel’s father, Mr. Femi Adesanya, told The Guardian yesterday that the October 6 battle in Melbourne would rekindle the sports rivalry between New Zealand and Australia.

“New Zealand and Australia have a healthy sports rivalry, particularly in rugby, cricket, and netball,” Adesanya said. “It is like the sports rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana. This fight on October 6 is generating a lot of heat, and everybody is anxious to see Israel and Whittaker in action.”

Melbourne, Australia is considered a home ground for Whittaker, but Adesanya is sure of getting a victory. “Israel is training very hard, and for those who know him, he does not entertain any fear whether he is fighting at home or not. I am sure he has what it takes to deal with the situation in Melbourne.”

Whittaker, who was born in December 1990, will go into the October 6 fight with a UFC record of 20 victories and four defeats, while Adesanya holds a clean sheet of 17 victories without a defeat.

Before Adesanya’s victory over Mexico’s Kelvin Gastelum in April in Atlanta, USA, the Nigerian had thrilled millions of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans across the world with a fascinating victory against Brazil’s Anderson Silva during a UFC 234 contest in Melbourne in February this year.

Adesanya visited Nigeria in May this year, 16 years after he took his martial arts business to New Zealand. During the visit, he told The Guardian that he would do everything possible to defeat Robert Whittaker for the UFC middleweight title whenever the fight comes up.

Australia and New Zealand share some commonalities, as the urban societies of both countries were created by the British in the last three centuries and built on the invasion of a population that didn’t live in cities. About 20 per cent of the population of both countries is migrants.

They have different historical and environmental influences that have resulted in significant cultural differences. Specifically, Australia was founded to be a penal colony, while New Zealand was founded to be a religious colony. While Australia is a harsh land of droughts, snakes, and desert, New Zealand is a heavenly land of lakes, glaciers and fertile soil.

In sports, the main difference between the two countries is that New Zealand never invented its own team sports like Australia. In New Zealand, rugby union is the most popular sports.

Australians have also embraced foreign sports but they have also invented some of their own, including polocrosse, indoor cricket, touch football, surf lifesaving, and Australian football. Rugby union is a popular sport in the private schools of two of Australia’s six states.

New Zealanders also like cricket, but unfortunately, they are not very good at it. It took them a world record of 27 years to win their first test match.

In 2003, both Australia and New Zealand were awarded the right to co-host the Rugby World Cup, but the International Rugby Board later stripped New Zealand of its right to co-host the cup and Australia held it on its own after New Zealand backtracked.


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