UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will return to action in June, facing familiar foe Marvin Vettori at UFC 263.
The UFC has confirmed the bout will headline on the pay-per-view card which will also see the men's flyweight title on the line. A venue for the event is yet to be announced but is likely to be in the United States.
It will be the second time Adesanya and Vettori have met inside the UFC octagon. In April 2018, Adesanya (20-1) claimed a split decision win over his Italian counterpart in what was his second UFC appearance. Adesanya dictated the fight through the first two rounds and outstruck Vettori in both, before Vettori was able to take the fight to the canvas with some success to win the third round. To the surprise of most fans, one of the judges found enough to award two rounds to Vettori in the bout, but the other two ruled in favour of Adesanya.
The bout will be Adesanya's first since suffering the first loss of his career in his bid to become a two-weight champion, falling on the wrong side of a unanimous decision defeat to light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. He is 9-0 in the UFC middleweight division.
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Vettori gets his shot thanks in large part to consensus No 1 contender Robert Whittaker wanting a longer turnaround between bouts after his unanimous decision win over Kelvin Gastelum last weekend. Whittaker lost the title to Adesanya in 2019 in front of a record crowd of more than 57,000 people in Melbourne, and has won three bouts against top 10 opponents since then. UFC president Dana White told ESPN Whittaker would likely get a title shot later in the year.
Vettori (17-4) comes into the bout off wins over No 10 ranked Kevin Holland, who took the bout on short notice when Darren Till (No 6) was forced out with an injury, and Jack Hermansson (then ranked No 4).
Fellow Kiwi Brad Riddell, Adesanya's teammate from Auckland City Kickboxing, will also fight on the June card - with a tantilising clash of strikers against Drew Dober.
Riddell (9-1) was supposed to fight lightweight No 15 Gregor Gillespie in late March, however was forced to withdraw from the fight on the day of the event after members of his support team tested positive for Covid-19. Riddell did not catch the virus.
With Gillespie since booked, Riddell gets a match-up to please the fans. Like Riddell, Dober (23-10) is of a striking background and does his best work on his feet. Both fighters have shown potential to make a run up the rankings, though Dober hit a road block in his last bout against Russian grappling powerhouse Islam Makhachev.