At UFC 263 on June 12, 2021, Israel Adesanya will return to Middleweight and defend his title against Marvin Vettori. The venue: the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., which will be packed to the rafters with more than 18,000 fans.
Interestingly enough, this is the same spot that Adesanya and Vettori fought for the first time back in April 2018. That’s a fight Adesanya ended up winning via split decision, a split decision Vettori claims is the closest Adesanya has come to tasting defeat at 185 pounds in UFC.
And while it seems like fate that the two should run it back in the same location, it wasn’t supposed to be Vettori in the No. 1 contender slot. Those honors went to Robert Whittaker, who turned the title fight down because Adesanya insisted on a June return. Whittaker just fought Kelvin Gastelum for five rounds at the end of April, so you’ll have to excuse him if he wants more than one month to recuperate and prepare.
Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t sound like Adesanya’s coach, Eugene Bareman is feeling very understanding.
“For me, it’s a very strange decision,” Bareman said (via The Mac Life). “If you give us the situation, or even if you take the last fight, we were going in with multiple injuries. There’s certain things you just don’t turn down, don’t matter what. Don’t matter how much family you got waiting for you. Not trying to be insensitive towards his family and all of that, but there’s certain things in this sport, you reach a certain pinnacle that you’ve been reaching and you don’t give them away.
“That was very unexpected for us. If the shoes on the other foot, we’re fighting through — [Adesanya’s] arm’s falling off, all my guys, their arms’ are falling half off, we’re still fighting,” he continued. “When it comes to the title, the decision gets made for you. You make whatever sacrifices are necessary. But Robert, he makes his own decisions, he was given the opportunity as I understand by the UFC, and I guess it’s gone to Vettori.”
Now Adesanya’s team sounds unwilling to accept a Whittaker fight without another win from “The Reaper.”
“When you turn down an opportunity like that, just like we know — when you turn down an opportunity like that now you have to sit at the back of the list again,” Bareman concluded. “Now he goes into the pool again.”