The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 243 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
A superstar was born at UFC 243 on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia. Hometown hero Robert Whittaker attempted to successfully defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown against interim titleholder Israel Adesanya in front of a record-setting crowd of more than 57,000 at Marvel Stadium. Unfortunately for “The Reaper,” he was not the fighter who put forth a life-changing performance. Adesanya picked apart Whittaker with a flurry of strikes and closed the deal with a second-round technical knockout.
“Everything is falling into place like I’m in ‘The Matrix,’” Adesanya said on the ESPN+ post-fight show. “I blew the roof off of this place tonight. I said I was going to shock the world and rewrite history. Look what I did.”
The City Kickboxing representative used slick head movement and vision to continually dart away from Whittaker’s combinations and follow up with hard shots of his own. “The Last Stylebender” dropped Whittaker with a punch in the closing second of the opening round but was unable to finish “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner, who was likely saved by the bell. However, Adesanya picked up where he left off in the second round, where he dropped Whittaker with a left hook and prompted the stoppage with follow-up punches.
“It’s amazing how they think I have no power,” Adesanya said. “Look, everyone has power. My baby sister has power. It’s just … do you know how to touch people? Do you know how to find the right spot? I don’t throw and hope. I aim and fire. Tonight was a good night.”
Adesanya did not just win the bout inside the Octagon; he won the entire event. Prior to the fight, the 30-year-old was part of one of the most memorable walkouts in UFC history. The New Zealander performed a choreographed dance with three friends and capped it off with a handstand. “When I’m having fun,” Adesanya posted to Twitter, “I’m the best in the world.” The former kickboxer’s rise to the top of the middleweight division has been nothing short of historic. He entered the UFC just 20 months ago and has since competed seven times in the promotion. He has gone a perfect 7-0 to push his overall record to 18-0.
“I like to create moments in this game,” Adesanya said. “I’m here to do moments and iconic moments. I gave you a show. We are going to the next level. I have told [UFC President] Dana [White], I have told the whole UFC, you don’t know what you are dealing with. Now you can see. I’m a bona fide star. I know I am. I know I got the it factor.”
It was the first time Whittaker stepped into the cage in nearly 16 months. The former champion had been sidelined by a slew of serious injuries, which included his being rushed into emergency surgery the morning of his scheduled bout at UFC 234. His return to the Octagon did not prompt the results he intended, but Whittaker remained classy in defeat.
“I’m a little disappointed to say the least,” Whittaker said on a video he posted on social media. “It is what it is, though. I’m disappointed, but it is not the end of the world and I’m not going anywhere. I’m one of the best fighters in the world. I’m where I belong. I felt good. I felt strong. I felt great. Sometimes you lose, and if it happens and its s---. It’s not just in fighting; it’s in everything. Sometimes it [expletive] rains on you, but keep your head up [and] keep working.”
The newly crowned champion did not take any time to celebrate his victory but instead turned his focus to his likely next opponent: Paula Henrique Costa.
“First, you know who is next,” Adesanya said, moments after he dethroned Whittaker. “I got this overly inflated balloon animal, this heavy-ass Ricky Martin wannabe, ‘Borrachinha.’ He better not step in here because this is my cage tonight. This is my Octagon. This ‘Borrachinha’ has been talking s--- saying, ‘I’m going to smash this guy. I don’t like this guy, this Israel guy. I want to rearrange his face.’ Trust me, when I’m done with him, he will really look like Ricky Martin -- botched.”
Costa, who also has an undefeated record, was sitting cageside during Adesanya’s callout and shared his response to the challenge afterwards.
“Now, we only have one fight to do,” Costa said. “The only fight to match up is me and Israel. I want this fight with all my soul. I will take his head off in this cage. Oh man, you don’t know how much I want this fight.”
Costa is coming off the most significant win of his career -- a unanimous decision over Yoel Romero in August. He sees his heavy-handed pressure boxing style as the kryptonite for Adesanya.
“If Gastelum had my power, I think he knocks him out,” Costa said. “I think I’m the most dangerous guy in the division. When I put my hands on his head, his body, he is going to feel a lot. He can die.”
While the two fighters appear to agree that their showdown is the next fight to be made, they disagree on the venue that should hold it.
“Yeah, let’s bring the Brazilian to Auckland, [New Zealand],” Adesanya said. “Let’s make it happen. I think it is going to be in January or something. I’m fresh.”
Costa believes he should be the one to get the hometown hero treatment.
“Yes, I can come here to fight, but I would like to bring this fight to Brazil,” he said. “We have a lot of friends in Brazil, a lot of support there. The people there love this sport, so I think it could be in a big arena. I think in Brazil it would be very amazing.”
While Adesanya has been linked to other possible opponents, including a super fight with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, he gave his reason as to why he wanted to face the Brazilian next: “I want to get him before USADA gets him.”