The UFC middleweight title rematch between reigning champion, Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya and the #1 ranked former division kingpin, Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker has reportedly been pushed back until 2022 at the earliest, after brief attempts to stage the bout at UFC 268 on November 6. at Madison Square Garden fell through.
According to former champion, Whittaker’s manager, Titus Day — past-foe, Adesanya would have been able to compete at UFC 268 in November, however, travel restrictions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would prevent the titleholder’s return to New Zealand afterward.
“Rob (Robert Whittaker) had been told he would be fighting at Madison Square Garden,” Day told the Daily Telegraph. “But there have been some issues since and it can’t happen (then). Apparently, (Israel) Adesanya could get into American for the fight, but he wouldn’t have been able to get back to New Zealand immediately afterwards (amid travel restrictions).“
“So while we know the fight is going to happen, it’s now become a matter of when,” Day explained. “Unfortunately, given everything going on with COVID (-19) in Australia and New Zealand at the moment, it may not be until early next year.“
Per a report from MMA Fighting, as a result of the travel restrictions imposed in New Zealand, the planned pairing of Adesnaya and Whittaker in a re-run will have to wait until next year.
This week, Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister confirmed a roadmap to phase the reopening of the country as well as the easing of numerous restrictions which have severely limited the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, however, those measures are not expected to take place until next year.
In their first bout, Adesanya successfully unified the middleweight titles with a second round knockout victory over Whittaker in the main event of UFC 243 back in November of 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. The victory came as Adesanya’s 18. straight professional win.
Successfully defending the undisputed middleweight title for the third time in June, Adesanya took home a one-sided unanimous decision victory over two-time foe, Marvin Vettori in the main event of UFC 263 — rebounding from an unsuccessful light heavyweight title challenge against current gold holder, Jan Blachowicz in March at UFC 259.
Embarking on an eye-catching three-fight winning spree since his knockout loss to Adesanya, the 23-5 standout, Whittaker returned from burnout with a trio of impressive triumphs against former welterweight title challenger, Darren Till, the then-streaking, Jared Cannonier, as well as common-foe, former interim title chaser, Kelvin Gastelum.
At the time of publication, UFC 268 is still scheduled to host a headlining bout between welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman and past-foe, former interim gold holder, Colby Covington. In the same breath, the promotion has yet to confirm if the pay-per-view event will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
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