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Two Ultimate Fighting Championship belts will now be on the line at the tentpole event in June.
Per UFC President Dana White on Friday in an interview with Bill Simmons, the promotion is looking to set up a rematch for the middleweight throne. Instead of Robert Whittaker taking on champ Israel Adesanya (20-1) again, however, Marvin Vettori (17-4-1) will get his crack at the title on June 12. Adesanya and Vettori will toe the line atop UFC 263, according to Combate, which does not currently have a location booked. The destination could be the UFC Apex in Las Vegas unless another venue opens up, but White did state at the UFC 261 press conference that the organization was looking at staging the card in Arizona.
The originally intended billing for this card was indeed Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2, but Whittaker was unable to make the turnaround, per ESPN, as he headlined an event on April 17 and would have been competing less than two months later. Willing to fight just over two months after he last prevailed is Vettori, who defeated Kevin Holland in the headliner of UFC on ABC 2. The win advanced the Italian’s streak to five, with victories over Holland, Jack Hermansson and Andrew Sanchez bolstering his claim to the top spot. Vettori and Adesanya first met in 2018, and Vettori fought to a close split decision loss.
Adesanya will be making his return to the middleweight division after an unsuccessful jaunt up a weight class to become a two-division champ. “The Last Stylebender” suffered his first career defeat at the hands of Jan Blachowicz, ending a 20-fight victorious stretch and rebuffing him from champ-champ aspirations. The Nigerian still holds the middleweight crown, wresting it from Whittaker in 2019 and defending it against Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa since then. When knocking out Costa, he because the first man to defeat the burly Brazilian, thereby lifting his career knockout rate to 75 percent.
UFC 263 goes down at a currently undetermined location on June 12, with two championship affairs topping the pay-per-view card. The headliner spot will go to Adesanya vs. Vettori 2 at middleweight, while the co-main assignment falls to a flyweight title rematch between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. Additional major fights on the card include a welterweight tilt between Demian Maia and Belal Muhammad, as well as a featherweight clash pitting Hakeem Dawodu against Movsar Evloev.
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