After some delay, a challenger to Israel Adesanya’s UFC middleweight throne has been found for UFC 293 in Sydney next month.
American Sean Strickland will make the trip Down Under to challenge for Adesanya’s title, with UFC boss Dana White this morning confirming the bout would headline the card.
Adesanya was initially expected to meet South African Dricus du Plessis, with the two even facing off inside the UFC octagon after du Plessis’ impressive second-round TKO win over Robert Whittaker in early July. However, with just a nine-week turnaround between that bout and UFC 293 in Sydney on September 10, du Plessis reportedly opted to instead take time to recover from an injury.
It left the main event for the Sydney card up in the air; Adesanya was adamant he would fight in Sydney and asked for Strickland if du Plessis wouldn’t take the fight.
Strickland is ranked at No 5 in the UFC middleweight division, but comes in off the back of an impressive second-round TKO victory of his own against unranked fighter Abus Magomedov. Since returning from a two-year layoff from competition in 2020 following a motorcycle accident, Strickland holds a 7-2 record but does not hold a win over any athlete currently ranked in the top five.
“This will be Adesanya’s 11th consecutive UFC title fight. What I love about Israel is he’s always ready to take on the best in the world - anyone, anytime,” White said.
“Strickland is an absolute maniac who doesn’t back down from anyone. This will be a great fight.”
Adesanya’s addition to the card makes it six Kiwi athletes to perform in Sydney.
Kai Kara-France, Carlos Ulberg, Shane Young, Blood Diamond and Justin Tafa have all been confirmed for the card, while Australian Tyson Pedro - who does his training camps with Auckland’s City Kickboxing gym - is also fighting at the event.
Heavyweight knockout artist Tafa will be meeting a familiar opponent, with a rematch against former NFL player Austen Lane. The pair fought in late June, but the fight was called off after just 29 seconds when Tafa suffered a nasty eye poke and could not continue.
The incident was deemed accidental and the fight was ruled a no-contest. After being cleared of any serious damage, Tafa didn’t waste any time calling for the fight to be rebooked on the Sydney card, and the UFC obliged.
“These two heavyweights faced each other on June 24 and it was a great fight - for about 30 seconds,” White said.
“These two wanted a rematch to finish what they started, and we’re giving it to them.”
While the card had its main event confirmed, it also lost a bout. Although still to be confirmed by the promotion, Australian Casey O’Neill has revealed an injury forced her to withdraw from her bout against fellow ranked flyweight Viviane Araujo. Araujo won’t remain on the card, reportedly accepting a fight in Las Vegas in October instead.
Confirmed card for UFC 293 in Sydney
Middleweight title fight: Israel Adesanya (NZ) v Sean Strickland
Flyweight: Kai Kara-France (NZ) v Manel Kape
Light heavyweight: Carlos Ulberg (NZ) v Da Woon Jung
Heavyweight: Justin Tafa (NZ) v Austen Lane
Featherweight: Shane Young (NZ) v Gabriel Miranda
Welterweight: Blood Diamond (NZ) v Charles Radtke
Heavyweight: Tai Tuivasa (Aus) v Alexander Volkov
Light heavyweight: Tyson Pedro (Aus) v Anton Turkalj
Featherweight: Jack Jenkins (Aus) v Chepe Mariscal
Lightweight: Jamie Mullarkey (Aus) v John Makdessi