Rising Kiwi UFC star Israel Adesanya is set to take centre stage at one of the planet’s most iconic sporting venues.
Undefeated Adesanya (14-0) will face off with Derek Brunson (18-6) at New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden at UFC 230 on November 4 (NZ time).
The UFC announced the fight Saturday morning (NZ time) at a 25th anniversary press conference ahead on Sunday’s UFC 227 in Los Angeles.
‘The Last Stylebender” is fresh off an emphatic unanimous decision win over Brad Tavares at The Ultimate Fighter Finale last month, which propelled him into 9th spot in the middleweight division’s top 15 rankings.
His combination of charisma and show-stopping striking has seen him earmarked for stardom by the promotion and turned him into a popular target for other fighters seeking an opponent.
Brunson and Adesanya exchanged social barbs over the past week as both angled to have the fight booked.
Adesanya’s latest jab came Saturday morning as he filmed himself taunting Brunson from across a bar. That continued at the L.A press conference, where he told Brunson he fights “like a drunk bum” and said he could show up to the fight “drunk as f**k and still whoop your a**”.
The 34-year-old American sits three spots above Adesanya at sixth in the divisional rankings and is coming off a devastating KO loss to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in January.
He’s lost three of his past five fights, including a defeat via TKO to NZ-born middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
Brunson also featured in the UFC’s last venture to New Zealand shores, blitzing Australian Daniel Kelly in the co-main event in Auckland in June 2017.
The UFC 230 card is shaping a middleweight bonanza, with the bout added alongside the previously announced contests between Souza vs David Branch and Yoel Romero vs Paulo Costa.
The event will be headlined by a mouth-watering lightweight clash between Nate Diaz and Duston Poirier.