UFC president Dana White will jet into Sydney next week so that he can personally announce a blockbuster Australian title fight for middleweight champ Robert Whittaker.
As first predicted by The Daily Telegraph in July, Whittaker will defend his UFC strap on home soil early in 2019 – most likely as the headliner for UFC 234 on February 10.
While the date and venue are yet to be officially revealed, Melbourne is favoured to host Whittaker’s second defence against Californian native Kelvin Gastelum.
Over the weekend, White told broadcast partners ESPN that a middleweight title fight was set for Australia, but wouldn’t be drawn on specifics.
Instead, the famed fight promoter will make a rare trip to Sydney next week – aboard his private jet, no less – and personally announce the news to Australia’s No. 1 fighter.
Whittaker is back in the gym and training at full fitness, having recovered from the broken hand he suffered during his first defence back in June, against Cuban Yoel Romero at UFC 225 in Chicago.
The Sydneysider fought almost 25 minutes with a broken right hand to win the gruelling five-round war via split decision.
As a result, the father-of-three has claimed the mantle of Australia’s No. 1 fighter and, come February, will be looking to continue an unbeaten run now stretching nine fights and more than four years.
Better, Whittaker can prepare for his history-making contest at home in Western Sydney, surrounded by family.
Forever stamped as Australia’s first UFC champion, the Mt Annan slugger now gets to double down and earn bragging rights as the first to defend on home soil.
Privately, Whittaker has been pushing hard to have a fight in his own backyard, convinced he has earned the honour after a string of gutsy victories.
Initially, the champ was booked to defend his middleweight strap for the first time against American Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 in Perth, way back in February.
However, the 27-year-old was forced to withdraw from that bout due to injury and would later defend against Romero in Chicago.
And now comes a showdown with Gastelum (15-3), whom he recently coached against on The Ultimate Fighter reality TV series.
The American is in strong form, coming off wins against Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and Michael Bisping.
An Australian title fight will also represent a massive couple of months for local UFC fighters, with the fight company also headed to Adelaide in December.
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