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Israel Adesanya vs Robert Whittaker, ‘dark place’, rivalry, news, preview


UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya intends to take title challenger Robert Whittaker back to his “dark place again” when the two men meet for their rematch at UFC 271 on Sunday (AEDT).

After Adesanya convincingly defeated Whittaker in their first fight at UFC 243 at Marvel Stadium in October 2019 to take the belt, the Australian said he went to a “dark place”.

Whittaker has since revived his career with an impressive three-fight winning streak against Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum to become the No. 1 challenger in the division.

But Adesanya is ready to burst Whittaker’s bubble for the second time in 28 months.

Watch UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker LIVE on Main Event available on Kayo & Foxtel, Sunday 13th February from 2pm AEDT. ORDER NOW >

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“There’s no secret that we don’t like each other,” Adesanya said.

“But I do empathise with what he said … he talked about his dark place he went to after the last time I beat him, I’ve been there, everyone’s been there in their own personal ways.

“I understand when you don’t want to get up and you lose motivation so I’m glad he’s pulled himself out of it, I’m glad he’s feeling much better, he’s a better man, a better fighter, better all that, so, yeah, I’m going to take him to the dark place again.”

Whittaker has stated he hasn’t watched their first fight, which ended with him being knocked out in the second round in front of a record UFC crowd of 57,127 in Melbourne.

“I’m sure his coaches have … good for him, maybe it’s a psychological thing – he doesn’t want to see that be replayed in his head over and over again,” Adesanya said.

“But there’s a reason I brought back my high-top fade-back [hairstyle he had at UFC 243], I have to remind him so when he steps across the cage form me – deja vu.”

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The rematch between the fierce trans-Tasman rivals is one of the most anticipated fights of the year, but Adesanya hasn’t been too impressed with the way the UFC have been promoting it, especially during the coverage of UFC 269 which was headlined by Charlies Oliveira and Dustin Poirier.

At the time, it prompted Adesanya to tweet out an emoji of a cap, which cast doubt over the legitimacy over the announcement as that is social media code for lying.

“When I asked the next day, ‘Did you guys see the announcement?’ They were like, ‘What announcement?’ No one saw the announcement,” said Adesanya who revealed he only signed off on the fight this week.

“Bro, this is not how you announce a fight of this magnitude … I just felt like the people doing that bit of the UFC dropped the ball.

“You make a little teaser trailer and then u have (commentators Joe) Rogan, (Jon) Anik and ‘DC’ (Daniel Cormier) riff about it right after the trailer before the main event. Do I have to do your job for you? I can do it on my phone, I can make it literally, I can chop it up real quick.

“I was just like, ‘What the f — k? What kind of announcement is that?’ Just a little banner like, OK that’s it. No. You don’t do that for a championship fight of this magnitude when it’s in Texas – everything is bigger in Texas, right?”

Adesanya has just signed a new “lucrative” multi-fight deal with the UFC which he believes makes him the second biggest earner on the roster, presumably behind Conor McGregor, but the Kiwi superstar insisted money wasn’t the motivating factor behind his fighting career.

“This is about legacy, this is about martial arts, this is about learning and I haven’t lost that step, I’m still hungry,” he said.

“I’m 32, I’m fresh, I’m young, at the training camp I went back to the young ‘Izzy’, the kid that was just soaking everything up and just be real curious.

“I love the UFC, I’ve looked at this company and I’ve wanted to be in this company for so long and I love the fact that we’ve gotten to this agreement, finally.

“I’m glad we have a good working relationship, and with everything that’s happening right now, this will trickle down to the rest of the fighters and it’s only going to be great for the company.”

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As for Whittaker, Adesanya says the Australian is “salty still” about losing the belt to him and that he “battles with himself with accepting” the result.

“Sometimes he accepts it and then sometimes he’s like, ‘I hate to admit, but he (Adesanya) is right’,” Adesanya said.

“You should’ve listened to me in 2019 when I called it as it was … I was just speaking the truth, he wasn’t acting himself, he was acting out of character and I’m glad he’s accepted that now, so that makes him really dangerous but at the same time – same, same but different.

“Rob is a good fighter, he’s had a lot of knockouts in the past, he’s gotten better but I just don’t think it warrants that kind of (positive) reaction (from the media), but I have high standards.”

Adesanya was expecting a different Whittaker to the rash, emotional version he confronted the first time around, but stressed it was up to the Australian to fight for the belt.

“He has matured like he said and I expect him to be more patient, but guess what? So am I,” Adesanya said.

“I will be patient, I’ve got the belt. He wants the belt? Come get the belt. I don’t have to do sh*t. I just have to wait for him to do work because I’m the one with the belt.

“But this could be me just telling fibs as well. I might have my own secret plans that I want to do.

“He’s going to come different, he’s not going to do what he did the first time because he’d be silly to do so.”



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