The worst kept secret in combat sports has finally been announced.
Kiwi UFC star Israel Adesanya will meet Kiwi-born counterpart Robert Whittaker in a five-round bout on October 6 (NZ time) for the undisputed UFC middleweight championship.
The bout will headline UFC 243, with a location for the event yet to be confirmed.
The Herald understands the UFC were planning on announcing the Australian venue for the card on Saturday, but were awaiting for a contract between the company and the Government to be finalised. The UFC were hopeful the location for the event would be made official next week.
Should they be unable to come to an agreement on an Australian venue, ESPN reports Las Vegas has been considered to host the card. If the bout is held in Australia, it could cause some headaches for sports fans, with the NRL grand final scheduled for the same day in Sydney.
The fight between Adesanya and Whittaker is arguably the biggest event in Australasian mixed martial arts history, with two homegrown talents fighting for a world title.
Whittaker holds the UFC middleweight title, which has been in his possession for two years. Whittaker claimed the interim championship in July 2017 with a unanimous decision win over Brazilian Yoel Romero. He was later promoted to undisputed champion when Georges St-Pierre vacated the title after being diagnosed with colitis - an inflammatory reaction in the colon.
Injury and illness has limited Whittaker to just one fight since then, again against Romero, where he took a split decision win in a non-title fight.
It was an illness early in 2019 that opened the door for Adesanya to swoop in to the title picture. Whittaker was forced to withdraw from a title defence against American Kelvin Gastelum in Melbourne in February after undergoing stomach surgery.
While he was recovering, the UFC booked a fight between Gastelum and Adesanya for the interim middleweight title.
Adesanya came on to the UFC scene only in early 2018, but hasn't wasted any time moving up the rankings. Adesanya fought four times in 2018, winning every fight which included victories over ranked fighters Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson.
After opening 2019 with a win over Brazilian legend Anderson Silva on the same card, Whittaker was supposed to fight Gastelum but a hernia forced Whittaker out of the bout.
Adesanya met Gastelum in Atlanta in April and claimed the interim title with a unanimous decision win.
"The last 18 months has been crazy," Adesanya said. "Six fights in and I'm the champ. I can't say that for [Robert], he's fought twice the last maybe three years. I've been busy.
"I'm motivated, I'm inspired and I'm ready to go."
Whittaker, who is again fighting fit, said it is "going to be a killer fight".
Adesanya and Whittaker are unbeaten at middleweight. Although Adesanya holds a 17-0 professional record, Whittaker has won 20 of his 24 fights, with all four losses coming at welterweight.