UFC 276: Israel Adesanya says no to Robert Whittaker trilogy after ‘reading that book twice’

Kiwi machine Israel Adesanya wants to headline the UFC’s hyped return Down Under — but with one stipulation if the Australian summer blockbuster goes ahead.

Israel Adesanya lands a blow on Robert Whittaker in their UFC middleweight championship fight at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, in 2019.
Israel Adesanya lands a blow on Robert Whittaker in their UFC middleweight championship fight at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, in 2019.

Israel Adesanya has laughed off suggestions he defend the UFC middleweight title in an Australian summer blockbuster against Robert Whittaker, declaring: “I’ve read that book twice — I know how it ends”.

As first revealed by The Daily Telegraph a fortnight ago, the UFC is planning for a return Down Under in early 2023 — with February the earliest of several dates currently being discussed.

The development was confirmed during a unique Sydney press conference on Tuesday to preview UFC 276 — which will feature both Adesanya and Australia’s featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski.

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Apart from attending The Star event, the two champions also took questions on their upcoming bouts which will top International Fight Week in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 3.

During proceedings, Adesanya confirmed his enthusiasm for headlining an Australia Pay-Per-View event in 2023, especially given his initial fight with Whittaker — at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium — set the company’s attendance record of 57,127.

Alex Volkanovski and Israel Adesanya in Sydney on Tuesday. Picture: Justin Llyod
Alex Volkanovski and Israel Adesanya in Sydney on Tuesday. Picture: Justin Llyod

Others in contention for top billing however include Volkanovski and Mt Druitt heavyweight Tai Tuivasa, who will first headline the UFC’s first ever Paris card against Ciryl Gane this September.

Another fighting at the same France event is Whittaker, who recently revealed his plans to immediately push for a trilogy bout with Adesanya should he beat Italian Marvin Vettori.

Speaking on Tuesday however, the Kiwi suggested he had no interest in fighting his Australian arch rival a third time, suggesting instead that the fighter dubbed Bobby Knuckles move up to light heavyweight.

Adesanya added that should he secure another title defence against American Jared Cannonier on Sunday week, he will then fight the winner of another UFC 276 bout between Sean Strickland and Alex Pereira.

Pereira undoubtedly represents an exciting storyline for the UFC given he boasts two kickboxing wins over Adesanya, including one via KO.

But as for Whittaker, from whom The Last Stylebender took the title via Kayo before winning a far closer decision in Texas earlier this year?

“I’ll put in to you this way, Rob is a good fighter,” Adesanya said.

“He’s a great fighter actually, I won’t lie.

Robert Whittaker lands a punch on Israel Adesanya at UFC 271 in February. Picture: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Robert Whittaker lands a punch on Israel Adesanya at UFC 271 in February. Picture: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

“But I’ve read that book twice — I know how it ends.

“First time I read it, it was a quick read.

“Second time, I took my time.

“But I still read that book. And if I read it a third time it’s still going to have the same ending.

“So I have no interest in reading it again.

“I’m interested in finding new books to read, new books to master and own.

“So as for him?

“Man, he can keep being great.

“Maybe he can move up (to light heavyweight). He talked about it a while ago.

“So test yourself. See how easy it is.”

Volkanosvki and Adesanya at Sydney’s The Star press conference. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Volkanosvki and Adesanya at Sydney’s The Star press conference. Picture: Justin Lloyd

Meanwhile, Wollongong favourite Volkanovski revealed he was not only fighting for “legacy” in his upcoming trilogy bout against Hawaiian Max Holloway — who has already beaten twice — but the chance to go fight for a second gold strap.

Volkanovski said a third win over Holloway would allow him to make the move up to lightweight and take on reigning king Charles Oliveira for a shot at “champ champ” status.

“That’s why I think about this third fight with Max as being the big one,” Volkanovski said.

“It’s going to give me that time to go for that double champ status. That is what I want.

“He’s a dangerous fighter,” Volkanovski said.

“(But) he’s shown that he can be beaten. He showed that in his last few, even though they were exciting, he was almost beaten every one of those times.

“With me, I ain’t gonna give him the opportunities.

“If I land big on someone, they ain’t gonna get the opportunity to land big on me. That’s not how we roll. I’m gonna land big and not get hit.

“I plan on going up and moving up. He is dangerous. I think it would be a massive fight.”

Originally published as UFC 276: Israel Adesanya says no to Robert Whittaker trilogy after ‘reading that book twice’

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