UFC 243 Middleweight Title Unification: Whittaker vs. Adesanya
By: Jesse Donathan
UFC 243 will air Saturday, October 6, 2019 at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia live on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV) with the main event slated to take place between the UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker (20-4, 9 KOs) and the UFC Interim Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya (17-0, 13 KOs). The evenings co-main event will feature a lightweight showdown between Al Iaquinta (14-5-1, 7 KOs) and New Zealander Dan Hooker (18-8, 10 KOs). For those interesting in watching the big boys go to town, Australia’s own heavyweight Tai “Bam-Bam” Tuivasa (8-2-0, 7 KOs) will meet Sergey Spivak (9-1-0, 4 KOs) in a battle of Octagon supremacy.
“I never have any expectations with fights,” Whittaker told MMAJunkie.com in an October 2, 2019 social media report. The champion would go on to state, “I prepare for a war and you know, I am pleasantly surprised if anything else. So, I am prepared to go to war with this guy, I am prepared to drag it and make it dirty, make it messy for five rounds, for 25-minutes. Every second of being hard, I am prepared for that. And you know, I am happy to take it there if that’s where he wants it to go. But as far as I am concerned, I have 25-minutes to try and put him away and I am going to use every minute to try and do that.”
“Look, (expletive) the belt,” Adesanya told TheMacLife in their October 3, 2019 interview on YouTube.com titled, “Israel Adesanya: “He’s not the first Maori I’ve fought, trust me” | UFC 243 Open Workout.” According to “The Last Style Bender,” who captured the interim title at UFC 236 in April against Kelvin Gastelum, “For me, the real goal is beating him because he is a warrior. He’s got that Maori blood in him and he’s not the first Maori I’ve fought, trust me. So, Sunday, October 6th, if you don’t have your tickets, don’t steal, don’t do nothing crazy, just make sure you get your tickets because trust me, we are going to blow that place up.”
Unfortunately, perhaps the biggest story of UFC 243 is the increasingly common seepage of political dogma into combat sports. “In many ways, the UFC took a few pages out of boxing’s book when it came into existence nearly 26 years ago,” writes BloodyElbow.com’s Milan Ordonez in his September 11, 2019 article titled, “Melbourne politician wants Octagon girls out of UFC 243: ‘It’s surely time to move on’.” According to Ordonez, among the pages the UFC took out of boxings playbook were, “the 10-point must system, the three judges scoring the fight, and ring girls.”
But if Australia’s politicians would have their way, the UFC’s Octagon girls could be replaced with Fight Progress Managers. “During the controversial boxing match between Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa in Bendigo, Australia in late August, ring card girls were replaced by men referred to as Fight Progress Managers,” writes BloodyElbow.com.
“It’s 2019, do we really still need scantily-clad women to wander around the middle of a fighting ring between rounds,” Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp told the Herald Sun. “Grid girls are no longer part of Formula One; walk-on girls are no longer part of professional darts — surely it’s time to move on,” suggested Capp.
In a September 26, 2019 MMAMania.com article titled, “Dana White reacts to ‘ridiculous’ ban on UFC Octagon girls — ‘Nobody treats women better than we do,” author Jesse Holland quotes UFC President Dana White’s comments to The Daily Telegraph in response to the Lord Mayor’s political wrangling into combat sports. “Our Octagon girls, they’re as much a part of the UFC brand as anyone, they’re ambassadors for our sport,” said White. “So, for someone who has absolutely no education whatsoever about who these girls are – about what they do, what they mean to the UFC – to start going off, it’s ridiculous.”
While it may be ridiculous, mixed martial arts has a long history with political red tape interfering with an otherwise enjoyable evening of fights dating back to nearly the inception of the sport itself. With the No Holds Barred era of MMA essentially stamped out of existence due to overzealous politicians and the implementation of the unified rules system, this latest dustup from Australia’s elected officials is only the beginning of a political platform that is sure to grow louder in the coming years as the desire for change reverberates throughout a combat sports community with a sympathetic ear to lobbying interests and radically shifting cultural and social norms. For those who are just fine with the way things currently are now in MMA, tune into the UFC 243 pay-per-view event live on ESPN+ Saturday night to catch all the evenings best fights.