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Israel Adesanya happy to see former rival Robert Whittaker back in UFC win column

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Israel Adesanya praises fellow former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker for bouncing back.

Adesanya (24-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC) dethroned Whittaker (26-7 MMA, 17-5 UFC) to become 185-pound champion at UFC 243. He beat him a second time in their title-fight rematch at UFC 271.

Both fighters are on a quest to regain gold. Adesanya returns Aug. 17 at UFC 305 to challenge middleweight champion Dricus Du Plessis in the main event in Perth, Australia. Meanwhile, Whittaker is sitting on a two-fight winning streak after getting his hand raised against Paulo Costa and most recently Ikram Aliskerov.

“I was fighting the local hero, Rob Whittaker, who just actually had a great win a week or two weeks ago, but I was fighting him here and defending my belt for the first time on enemy territory,” Adesanya said in an interview with “TODAY.” “I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to make it a show.’ And I did.

“It (Whittaker’s knockout of Aliskerov) was beautiful. Robbie’s that guy. We fought twice. We always have history, but it was good to see him back in the win column, and he’s coming for me, so I’ve got to stay ready.”

Just like Adesanya is paying his respect to Whittaker, he expects Du Plessis (21-2 MMA, 7-0 UFC) to do the same. A big narrative leading into UFC 305 is how Du Plessis identifies as the first true African UFC champion – something Adesanya took umbrage with.

“For me, you have to honor the guys who came before you,” Adesanya said. “He’s the guy saying, ‘I’m the real African champion,’ but look, you wouldn’t have been able to do what you’re doing at home in South Africa if myself, Francis Ngannou and Kamaru (Usman) didn’t pave the way for you. So you have to respect your elders, and I’ll make sure I do that to him.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 305.

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