Reigning UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya was expected to defend his 185-pound title against former division champion Robert Whittaker as part of the UFC 271 pay-per-view (PPV) event next February in a city and venue to be determined.
“11 weeks,” Whittaker wrote on Twitter, before adding the hashtag #AndNew.
But City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman, who represents Adesanya ahead of UFC 271, insists their middleweight rematch has yet to be finalized by Team Whittaker, despite the “stupid tweets” making the rounds on social media.
“Rob and his people, his wonderful manager, can’t secure this fight and they’re panicking,” Bareman told Submission Radio. “So, they put out these stupid tweets and this and that. It’s like, mate, just relax, boys. Just train. That’s all we’re doing. You guys do the same. Let us handle the business, because you guys are incapable. That management team’s incapable. So, we’ll just handle the business side of things, and if this is the direction that the fight is going to go, towards Robert, then we’ll secure it for you. We’ll do your job for you. But stop with the social media stuff. Like, that doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t do anything. It just shows your insecurity about the fight. Don’t worry. We’ll sort the fight out.”
Adesanya (21-1) stopped Whittaker (23-5) in the UFC 243 main event back in Oct. 2019 and has since made three successful title defenses, including last June’s unanimous decision victory over Marvin Vettori at UFC 263 in Glendale.
“Maybe we’re working on something different. Maybe if we can delay this Robert fight by a few months, maybe we can have it in a big stadium in Australia,” Bareman continued. “Maybe that’s the right thing to do. And that’s fine. Let’s get everybody around together and let’s push Robert back a bit. I’m sure Robert would love to do this fight in a massive stadium on home turf. Let’s put someone else in this February slot. You don’t know, and I’m not willing to confirm that.”
After losing his title to “The Last Stylebender,” the 30-year old Whittaker has won three straight fights. “The Reaper” was last seen capturing a unanimous decision victory over middleweight bruiser Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24 back in April.
“Israel still fights,” Bareman said. “And then it’s just up to Robert whether he wants to fight again, or if he wants to sit down. I mean, that’s up to him. You gotta remember, he had the title fight. Remember? He had it. He had it signed, sealed, and delivered. And he wasn’t willing to make the same commitments that we were. And that was to stay in America and just keep training. Those are the same commitments that we’ve made many times. He wasn’t willing. Which is fine. And I’ve got nothing against him for that. But he had the title fight, and now he might have to get pushed back. I don’t know.”
Sounds like this championship rematch is far from a done deal.