Just in case Kiwis didn't already have enough reasons to support Israel Adesanya in next week's middleweight title bout against Australian Robert Whittaker, UFC boss Dana White has provided another one.

Should the undefeated Kiwi become the first to knock off Whittaker at middleweight, he could find his first title defence coming on home soil.

Adesanya (17-0) and Whittaker (20-4) will square off in the main event of UFC 243 at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium next weekend, atop a card full of homegrown talent.

Speaking to the Herald, White said the result of the fight would likely have major implications on where the title would be defended next.


"First of all, let me tell you how hard Israel Adesanya fought for this fight to be in New Zealand. He really wanted this fight in New Zealand," White said.

"If he wins, I'm sure he's going to want to fight in his home country.

UFC boss Dana White. Photo / Getty Images
UFC boss Dana White. Photo / Getty Images

"After we do this event, this sport is going to explode in Australia – much bigger and much crazier than it is right now. This fight is going to be a massive game changer for the sport, the athletes and the fans in Australia and New Zealand.

"I got a guy from Sydney, Australia fighting a guy from Auckland, New Zealand. You couldn't write a better script than that."

The UFC last held an event in New Zealand in 2017, which featured three local fighters – Mark Hunt, Dan Hooker and Luke Jumeau - and four Australians on the 10-fight card. Since then, Kiwis Adesanya, Kai Kara-France and Shane Young have all made their UFC debuts, with Brad Riddell set to make his debut at UFC 243.

It's been a whirlwind 18 months for the New Zealand contingent in the UFC. Adesanya is now the interim middleweight champion, fighting for the undisputed title, Kara-France is the No9 ranked flyweight and Hooker is ranked in the top 15 among lightweights. The current New Zealand fighters active in the UFC have appeared in 18 bouts, with a collective 16-3 record.

Kai Kara-France has won all three of his bouts in the UFC. Photo / Getty Images
Kai Kara-France has won all three of his bouts in the UFC. Photo / Getty Images

Adesanya has contributed six of those 16 wins, rising through the ranks rapidly after making his debut in February of 2018. Earlier this year, he beat American Kelvin Gastelum to claim the interim belt to set up a trans-Tasman showdown against Whittaker.

Initially, UFC 243 had been slated to be held in Las Vegas, while the match up between Adesanya and Whittaker had been earmarked for the UFC 242 card in Abu Dhabi. However, with the UFC able to set up a lightweight title defence between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier in the UAE, White did what he needed to in order to move UFC 243 to Melbourne to make the most of having two fighters from Oceania in the main event.


The card has since been packed with homegrown talent, with 12 fighters from Australia and New Zealand appearing on the 12 fight card - with all but two bouts featuring a local talent.

"I wanted this fight in Melbourne," White said of the middleweight title bout. "It's going to have such an impact on the country, the fan base, the fighters and everything else. It's going to be massive so I ended up figuring it out.

"This is a massive global fight. The world will be watching this fight."

Dan Hooker will fight in the co-main event at UFC 243. Photo / Getty Images
Dan Hooker will fight in the co-main event at UFC 243. Photo / Getty Images

It will be the second time Marvel Stadium has hosted the UFC, after hosting the Ronda Rousey-headlined UFC 193 in 2015. Both Whittaker and Adesanya were in attendance that night - Whittaker fighting against American Derek Brunson on the main card; Adesanya watching on in the crowd as a fan.

The same year, with his record at 2-0, he messaged Dana White asking for an opportunity to prove himself on the biggest stage in the sport. He was a proven kickboxer, but White had some concerns about the then-raw talent.

"I was very interested. I thought he had the potential to be big," White said. "The question was his wrestling – how would he do against some nasty wrestlers? He's proven himself.

"He's 17-0, he's the interim champion and he's going in now against a guy who is by far his toughest test. Robert Whittaker is undefeated at middleweight at 8-0, and this kid has knock out power in both hands, has a granite chin and is such a good wrestler that he could have wrestled in the Olympics for Australia.

"Stylistically, this fight is ridiculous. There's no way this fight isn't one of the best fights of the year."

UFC 243
Sunday October 6, Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
Pay-per-view can be booked on Sky Arena for $34.95.

Main card
Middleweight championship: Israel Adesanya (NZ) v Robert Whittaker (Aus) (five round main event)

Lightweight bout: Dan Hooker (NZ) v Al Iaquinta

Heavyweight bout: Tai Tuivasa (Aus) v Serghei Spivak

Welterweight bout: Luke Jumeau (NZ) v Dheigo Lima

Bantamweight bout: Holly Holm v Raquel Pennington

Preliminary card
Welterweight bout: Jake Matthews (Aus) v Rostem Akman

Heavyweight bout: Justin Tafa (Aus) v Yorgan de Castro

Welterweight bout: Callan Potter (Aus) v Maki Pitolo

Featherweight bout: Megan Anderson (Aus) v Zarah Fairn Dos Santos

Early prelims
Lightweight bout: Brad Riddell (NZ) v Jamie Mullarkey (Aus)

Flyweight bout: Nadia Kassem (Aus) v Ji Yeon Kim

Bantamweight bout: Khalid Taha v Bruno Silva