The rapid nature of Israel Adesanya's rise through the UFC rankings caught many off guard.

A highly touted prospect when he signed with the promotion in late 2017, few would have tipped the Kiwi middleweight to be wearing UFC gold around his waist just 18 months after his debut.

Adesanya himself, however, knew what was coming.

In October, Adesanya and Kiwi-born Australian Robert Whittaker will square off for the undisputed UFC middleweight championship in the headline bout on UFC 243 at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium - with the 60,000 seat stadium expected to host a sell-out crowd.


It will be the biggest combat sports event the Oceania region has seen, headlined by two fighters from the continent with fighters from Australia and New Zealand also expected to feature heavily on the undercard.

Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya will fight for the undisputed UFC middleweight championship in October. Photos / Getty Images
Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya will fight for the undisputed UFC middleweight championship in October. Photos / Getty Images

It's a sign of belief from the UFC to host the pay-per-view card in Australia and have it headlined by local fighters. In 2015, the UFC brought a pay-per-view card to the same venue, but it was headlined by Ronda Rousey, arguably their biggest star at the time, taking on Holly Holm for the women's bantamweight title. It also featured a bout for the women's strawweight title.

A year ago, many might have said it would be crazy to think of a combat sport event filling a 60,000 seat stadium - on the same weekend as the NRL Grand Final no less. But, much like his rise, Adesanya saw it coming.

In interviews with the Herald and EMG Access early in 2019, the 30-year-old said he didn't have to chase numbers; that he simply had to go about his business in the same manner he always had and the numbers would come to him.

Now, what Adesanya saw in his crystal ball is becoming visible for all to see.

"It's something that when you know, you know," he said. "Not everyone's going to get it because they're not me, they're not player one, but when you know, you know.

"I knew from day dot, even before I jumped in the UFC, and here we are."

Adesanya and Whittaker will headline a card full of fighters from Oceania. In 2015, nine bouts on the card included fighters from the continent. Seven fighters from the continent have already confirmed they will be on the card in October, and more will be added in the coming months.


The likes of Dan Hooker, Shane Young and Jake Matthews are prime candidates, while there will be a push for a number of Kiwi and Australian fighters to be given their opportunity at a UFC debut in October as well.

"The last time they were in that stadium they had to get a lot of international talent, and had Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm to headline. Now you've got some hometown boys," Adesanya said.

"We're going to stack that s*** out."