The UFC returns to Melbourne, Australia this weekend with UFC 243. Top of the bill is a middleweight title unification bout between undisputed champion Robert Whittaker and interim champion Israel Adesanya.
New Zealand born Australian, Robert Whittaker (20-4) hasnt had a smooth road as champion so far. Surgeries and illness have meant he was only able to compete once in 2018, the same year his opponent Israel Adesanya made his promotional debut.
Whittaker started his championship journey in 2017 when he captured the interim middleweight title by defeating Yoel Romero by unanimous decision at UFC 213. He was later promoted to undisputed champion when Georges St-Pierre vacated the middleweight title and eventually retired from the sport.
Fast forward to February 2018 and Robert Whittaker was due to defend his title for the first time on home soil at UFC 221. He was taken ill and forced to withdraw from his headline bout against Luke Rockhold.
Whittaker later returned to the octagon in June that year to rematch Yoel Romero, and although Whittaker took away a split decision victory, it was deemed a non title bout due to Romero missing weight.
The UFC returned to Australia again for UFC 234 in February 2019 but headliner Robert Whittaker was taken ill again, this time hours before the event. He suffered a hernia and a twisted and collapsed bowel that needed emergency surgery straight away. Israel Adesanya stepped up to main event against former champion Anderson Silva and took away a unanimous decision victory that night.
Now healthy and just days out from UFC 243, Whittaker returns to headline in his home of Australia to defend his 185lbs title.
But Standing in his way is Nigerian born New Zealander, Israel Adesanya who became the interim middleweight champion when he defeated Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 in April. Undefeated at 17-0, Adesanya entered the UFC in February 2018 and quickly climbed the rankings beating the likes of Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson and former champion Anderson Silva. His big personality and unorthodox fight style have helped him to stand out in the division and he looks to elevate his status of interim champion this weekend.