According to UFC President Dana White and Adesanya’s management, it’s a go. According to the champ himself, it’s “cap”; for the non-millennial set, that means it’s a lie.
Adesanya responded via Twitter shortly after the promotion announced the fight, set to headline UFC 271 on Feb. 12 in Houston.
— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) December 12, 2021
Even more confusing, Adesanya’s management, Paradigm Sports, also announced the bout.
Informed of the apparent snafu at the UFC 269 post-fight press conference, White was confused, then visibly irritated. Seeking answers from the UFC’s Chief Operating Officer, Hunter Campbell, he was informed that the promotion had it in writing that Adesanya had agreed to the fight. But it didn’t take him long to pivot.
“Listen, if he doesn’t want to fight Whittaker, OK, then I guess we’ll find another fight,” White said. “Who gives a sh*t? I definitely don’t give a sh*t. You don’t want the Whittaker fight to be on? OK, then find something else.”
White has taken a similar stance on several occasions since the UFC resumed business amid the pandemic. Fighters who didn’t want to take offered fights could sit out as long as they wanted (though they still remained under contract in the near term thanks to mandatory contract extensions for fights turned down). The idea of the promotion putting out incorrect information seemed to chafe the UFC chief more than usual.
“Why would we lie?” White said. “When have we ever f*cking lied? This fight’s coming up...we lied about it? Twenty f*cking years, have we ever lied about making a fight? Some fights are harder to make than others, but I don’t think we’ve ever lied about making a fight. Why would we lie about that fight?”
In fact, the promotion has been forced to backtrack when apparent agreements did not hold up to public scrutiny. In 2018, Nick Diaz denied reporting from UFC broadcast partner ESPN that he had agreed to an octagon return at UFC 235. Eventually, he signed on the dotted line, but not until September of this year — more than three years later.
It remains to be seen whether Adesanya’s tweet is serious or just one of many playful jabs. But there are certain to be a few conversations about it behind the scenes.
White needed a second to compose himself to get over the momentary drama.
“My head’s still all f*cked-up from Adesanya,” he said when asked about Julianna Pena’s spectacular upset in Saturday’s co-headliner.