ROBERT Whittaker is an opportunity of defending his UFC middleweight title on Australian soil after discussions with firm officers now have him set for a return in early 2019.
Despite initially vowing to defend his middleweight strap later this yr at Madison Square Garden, Whittaker has informed the The Daily Telegraph his subsequent fight will now be in both “February or March” of 2019.
While the UFC has no occasions at present scheduled that far forward, the Sydney striker’s administration will push to headline on dwelling soil given the promotion has efficiently held two of its three earlier Australian blockbusters in February timeslots — UFC 110 in 2010 and UFC 127 the next yr.
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As revealed over the weekend, Australia’s first UFC champ will make his subsequent title defence towards rising American star Kelvin Gastelum after the pair had been introduced as coaches of (if) The Ultimate Fighter (nf) actuality TV collection.
Whittaker and his household head to Las Vegas on Monday for what is going to be eight weeks of filming in the world’s fight capital.
And as for the concept of heading a UFC Pay-Per-View at dwelling?
“Oh, that would be awesome,” mentioned Whittaker, at present recovering from a damaged hand suffered in his first title defence towards Yoel Romero at UFC 225.
“At this stage, no person from the UFC has mentioned something however it will be nice if I could have a title fight right here
“Initially, I hoped to be proper (in time for UFC 230 at Madison Square backyard) as a result of I actually wished to fight once more this yr. But with the hand, and the opposite accidents I’ve sustained from the Romero fight, I believe proper now the main focus must be on therapeutic my physique.
“And given my place, there isn’t a level dashing.
“Because getting again to 100 per cent is one factor, however working at 100 per cent is one thing else totally.
“And given one in every of my foremost objectives has all the time been enhancing my ability set, to do this I have to be understanding at 100 per cent. So that’s why my return will probably be early subsequent yr, both February or March.”
The UFC introduced on Sunday that it’ll return to Australia on the finish of this yr, with a Fight Night card scheduled for Adelaide on December 2.
Given Whittaker is a world champion and rising Pay-Per-View draw nonetheless, there isn’t a probability of him showing on that card.
Only final month, Whittaker’s supervisor Titus Day mentioned his consumer was eager to headline a UFC card slated for Madison Square Garden in November.
However, the fighter revealed discussions with each his staff and the UFC meant early 2019 was now the extra probably timeframe for his showdown with Gastelum, who wins the shot forward of US fighters Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman.
Asked about defending towards Gastelum, Whittaker mentioned: “I’ve by no means cared who I fight.
“And that’s one thing I simply say — ‘I’ll fight anybody’ — it’s one thing I’ve lived as much as my entire profession. And I’m pleased with that.
“So Gastelum, Weidman, Rockhold, it doesn’t matter.
“I’m simply glad I can see my opponent this far out. I’ve nonetheless received a plate and a few screws in my damaged hand so, proper now, the fast focus is on my rehabilitation for that.
“And the subsequent eight weeks in Las Vegas, it gained’t be a vacation.
“I’m going there to work.
“I’m taking two of my trainers and have some contacts over there, guys who’re going to work with me on my wrestling and ji-jitsu. I’ll additionally probably do some work on the UFC Performance Institute will I’m there too.”
February appears the popular month for UFC officers when bringing massive exhibits to Australia.
The solely break from custom was UFC 193, when 56,000 followers packed out Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium in November, 2015 to see Ronda Rousey knocked out by rank outsider Holly Holm.
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