The scene has been set for an epic moment for combat sports in Aotearoa and Australia with an almighty #KiwiUFC fight between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya all but locked in. Forget any headlines about Adesanya and Jon Jones, anyone talking about Jones in the same breath as Adesanya is getting way, way, way too ahead of themselves and it is so much more funky to live in this bubble of Whittaker vs Adesanya.
After Adesanya's win vs Kelvin Gastelum, both Adesanya and Whittaker talked to Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour and fueled the fire for this epic fight. In the immediate aftermath, Whittaker got this Twitter fingers active and UFC boss man Dana White made certain that a fight between Whittaker and Adesanya would go down, on the biggest stage they can find - probably an indoor stadium in Australia.
For such fights, a bit of niggle goes a long way and with this in mind, it was no surprise that Adesanya prodded Whittaker for being lovely in person and then having a different vibe when discussing Adesanya. That's about as dramatic as the niggle gets between these two and my gut-feeling as the #KiwiUFC overlord, is that Adesanya was stretching to ignite that niggle; there is little to no bad blood here.
That doesn't mean that Whittaker and Adesanya will not continue to poke each other, just know that such actions are all part of the fight game. The bigger they can make this rivalry, the better it is for each of them and niggle is only going to blow this fight up even further. Go with the flow here and enjoy the process of building the fight up, do not buy into the over-dramatic stuff though as I low key reckon they are both grateful to have a #KiwiUFC dance partner to make this what it is.
I'd also advise to stay as neutral as possible, from a pure #KiwiUFC perspective. Of course, your personal favourite will emerge and I have a hunch that all the buzz from those in Aotearoa right now is with Adesanya. Obviously there is a recency bias given what we saw on the weekend at UFC 236, yet there is also the fact that Adesanya is far more visible for kiwis as someone who lives and trains in Auckland.
Adesanya has made a point of celebrating his Nigerian roots. After previous fights, Adesanya has spoken in his native tongue and represented Africa in hearty fashion, which is a beautiful thing. After this fight, in talking with Helwani, Adesanya also made a clear point of his hearty Aotearoa roots...
This came in conjunction with Adesanya poking Whittaker for being a 'Mozzie' (Maori Aussie) and that Whittaker picks his moments to be from Australia or Aotearoa. None of which was all that insulting and this is meremyl further evidence of the poking being rather soft and not anything noteworthy. What this does do though, is reinforce the vibe that Aotearoa is Adesanya's in this rivalry.
The casual #KiwiUFC wouldn't have watched these interviews from Helwani and Whittaker told Helwani that he has plans to roll out a bunch of educational stuff in Aotearoa in the next year or so. As someone who has had great success in supporting indigenous Australians and general Aussie youth via a variety of initiatives, Whittaker appears to be bringing the same stuff to Aotearoa and that filled me up with hearty #KiwiUFC churs.
Whittaker's retort to the pokes from Adesanya, again reinforced the lack of drama in their rivalry. Whittaker merely noted that Adesanya uses his platform to call out Whittaker, for no crazy reason, while Whittaker uses his platform to pump up those initiatives in supporting folks in Australia who need that support. Not only does that show the lack of niggle between the two, it adds to the vibe of Whittaker simply being a good, mellow dude.
Which leaves us as #KiwiUFC fans in an intriguing spot. We have the most epic #KiwiUFC fight there has ever been and to be honest, the only kiwi combat event that is in this realm was the David Tua vs Shane Cameron fight; which will vanish form the same realm as this #KiwiUFC match up. It's not even realistic to suggest their in the same realm, I'm using that Tua vs Cameron bout to describe the feeling of a combat event captivating Aotearoa.
On the one side we have Whittaker, the laid back, all business, type of guy who left Aotearoa. On the other side we have Adesanya who is more flashy, with the hype of the UFC world behind him, who came to Aotearoa. Both are extremely skillful in the octagon and personally, I love them both. I can't favour either and my heart sits in the middle.
You will find your favourite eventually, but don't think it's wrong to sit in the middle of this #KiwiUFC match up. I'm riding this wave with vigour, I can't stress how nek level this is and we are extremely fortunate to have such a moment.
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Peace and love 27.