FIGHT CLUB: Israel Adesanya has just signed to be the second highest earner in the UFC – so what happens if Bobby Knuckles beats him?
Only days out from one of the biggest bouts in Australian fight history, Adesanya has officially signed off on a new multi-fight contract which makes him, he says, the second highest earner on the UFC roster.
While refusing to reveal exact details during a media day here in Houston, Texas on Wednesday, the UFC middleweight king suggested the new deal put him second in earnings to only McGregor – whose estimated worth is US$200 million.
Elsewhere, the fighting Irishman himself hit Twitter to praise the new deal struck by Adesanya, his Paradigm Sports Management stablemate – calling the Aucklander one of the company’s few, true “fighter/performer athletes”.
So, um, what happens if Whittaker goes and beats Adesanya this weekend?
“That’s a great question,” laughed Sydney agent Titus Day, the long-time manager of Australia’s inaugural UFC champion.
“First thing I thought after hearing that news was, wow, Adesanya is really putting some pressure on himself with this announcement.
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“I mean, signing a deal like that before fighting Rob – it’s a smart move.
“Because he knows Rob can beat him.
“But I’m surprised he announced it publicly.
“Because it certainly now puts Adesanya under some pressure.
“But who knows? Maybe he wants that pressure.”
Yet if Rob wins?
“I’ve definitely got an interesting call to make with the UFC on Monday morning,” Day said.
Asked what sort of financial gain Whittaker could make by regaining the title, Day continued: “Well, if you beat the second biggest money earner in the UFC, what does should make you?
“If Rob wins this weekend it will be one of the greatest comebacks in the sport.”
Quizzed on his new fight contract, Adesanya insisted it would allow him to help “raise the bar” for other fighters, like had been the case with McGregor.
“I appreciate Conor and I appreciate what he’s done for the game,” the New Zealander said. “Whether you like him or not, he’s f…ing raised the bar.
“He raised the bar for everyone … (and) I look to do the same before I’m done with this game.”
The UFC champ added that his deal would “trickle down to the rest of the fighters” and stressed “it’s only going to be great for the company”.
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MT DRUITT slugger Tai Tuivasa plans to become the first UFC fighter to drink his own beer from atop an Octagon – and potentially, from a groin guard — after secretly organising for a carton of Drink West to be shipped into Texas.
Currently enjoying a breakout UFC run, Tuivasa told this column during media day that he plans to be skolling the boutique lager he brews in western Sydney if he upsets No. 3 heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis at UFC 271.
While the UFC is sponsored by Modelo, Tuivasa has quietly made plans to ship a carton of Drink West into Houston in time for his blockbuster co-main.
While the Australian could become just the 11th fighter in UFC history to score five straight KO wins against Lewis, almost all of Wednesday’s media questioning centred around his now signature Shoey celebration.
Tuivasa was also quizzed on pubs, agreeing to fight Lewis while pissed, and asked exactly what he thought of the Black Beast tossing his cup into the crowd after his own most recent win?
“He can throw it to me and I’ll do a cuppy out of his ball guard,” Tuivasa joked.
Or at least we think it was a joke.
To which his rival says what?
“That guy is nasty, man,” Lewis said later, shaking his head.
“USADA need to be knocking on his door. He’s gotta be taking something to help his immune system”.
So popular has Tuivasa become Stateside, the 28-year-old is now set to launch The Shoeyvasa – a device that allows Americans to skol liquid gold from a shoe without it actually touching said footwear.
Quizzed on his new-found marketability, the Aussie shrugged: “You have to separate yourself from the others somehow.
“And my way is drinking piss from a shoe.”
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CASEY O’Neill has unveiled her plans to become UFC flyweight champion within as little as two years, saying: “I’m Australia’s best female fighter … and I will be Australia’s first female champion”.
Undefeated in all three fights since debuting in the UFC last February, O’Neill is set to confirm herself as one of the nation’s most exciting fight prospects – male or female — against veteran Roxanne Modafferi at UFC 271.
Born in Scotland, raised on the Gold Coast and now training out of Las Vegas, the 24-year-old knows exactly why UFC executives have placed her on the blockbuster Whittaker/Adesanya II card.
“That fight, it’s a big deal back home,” she said.
“So me being on this card, it means the UFC believes in me, want me to do well.
“And when I get a finish Saturday night – just like I always do – a lot more people will take notice of who I am.
“I’m ready to show (Australians) what I already know.
“That I’m going to be the best fighter in the world.”
Indeed, with all three of her Octagon wins having come via finish, O’Neill wants to use the biggest spotlight of her career to again take things away from the judges.
“Obviously, the most important thing is to win,” she said.
“But it’s also important for me to be exciting, to finish fights.
“Because there’s no way to prove yourself the best in the world without beating people definitively.”
Despite a breakout year in which she will have fought four times, O’Neill remains committed to taking time in her rise towards UFC champ Valentina Shevchenko.
The Queenslander also credited her confidence to having fought back from two straight losses to start her amateur career.
“Back then, I only ever had my own back,” O’Neill said.
“Nobody else believed in me.
“Especially after those first two losses.
“So I really had to dig deep and get myself out of a very dark place. And I realised that by myself, I can do anything.”
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UFC executives say Robert Whittaker is the most popular fighter in Australia – and fight fans agree.
Currently, Bobby Knuckles leads our online poll asking readers to pick the nation’s favourite fighter, earning 41 per cent of all votes polled.
Whittaker holds a narrow lead over Tim Tszyu (32%), with new lightweight champ George Kambosos Jnr (10%) third and UFC featherweight champ Alex Volkanovski (9%) fourth.
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BOXING Hall of Famer Johnny Lewis says he would love to see Robert Whittaker eventually take a big boxing fight, convinced Australia’s first UFC champ could make a successful switch.
After working with the No. 1 middleweight contender for the past four months, Lewis says Whittaker has a “great knowledge” of the fight game and praised his work ethic during preparations for Israel Adesanya.
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UFC middleweight contender Derek Brunson says Robert Whittaker is a far more difficult proposition for Israel Adesanya now than back in 2019. Set to fight Jared Cannonier at UFC 271, Brunson attended media day in a shirt reading ‘I beat up domestic abusers’ and was quick to heap praise on the Aussie.
“I think Whittaker makes adjustments and it will be more competitive,” he said “He will make the pace slower and maybe Izzy will mellow with a little bit more action.
“Whittaker’s aggressive, likes to leap in. But I think he will be more patient this time and slow the fight down.”
Originally published as UFC 271: Rob Whittaker’s plan to destroy hyped Israel Adesanya contract