When UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was hospitalised and unable to defend his title at UFC 234 in Melbourne, the UFC put a plan in place.

And when Israel Adesanya beat Anderson Silva at the event to earn a title shot, that plan came to fruition.

Last week it was revealed that Adesanya would fight for the interim middleweight title against American Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 in Atlanta in April. Gastelum was scheduled to fight Whittaker for the title in Melbourne before the fight was cancelled, and an interim title fight ensured both he and Adesanya would get the title opportunity they were promised.

It didn't take long for the UFC to put the plan in motion. Adesanya told the Herald he had been asked about the fight before he had even left Australia.


"I was like 'alright, just let me get home and put my feet up for a bit, then I can say yes'," he said. "Then we negotiated but it was all signed off pretty soon – like a week and a half after Melbourne."

The Nigerian-born Adesanya heads into fight camp at Auckland's City Kickboxing this week, after taking some time to wind down with family in Whanganui after UFC 234. With the bout against Gastelum signed off, Adesanya had to put plans of a trip to Nigeria in the coming months on hold. But with an election going on in the African nation at the moment, the 29-year-old said visiting later in the year would probably be a better idea.

"I don't mind putting it on hold until I get the belt, then I can go back with the belt."

The announcement of the interim title bout was received with mixed reactions. A host of fans and fighters have criticized the UFC for putting the pair in the position to claim UFC gold without having to face some of the other fighters in the division's top 10 such as Yoel Romero.

But outside opinions mean nothing to Adesanya.

"Opinions are like ass holes – everybody has one," he said. "I've gone through a number of guys already."

The bout against Gastelum shapes up to be an interesting encounter for the unbeaten Adesanya, with the American showing he has the tools to win in a number of ways. In his 15 wins, Gastelum has six by knockout, four by submission and five by decision.

"It's a good fight," Adesanya said of the bout. "(But) look at the size difference and the skill difference as well; I've proven in my last five fights that I'm different to these guys.


"It's not until they get in there with me that they're like 'oh s*** he's a different beast' but it's too late by then – the cage door's locked and they can't get out."