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Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker 2 expected to be pushed back until 2022

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Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya
Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Plans for a middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker will likely have to wait until 2022 after the rematch was originally expected to take place at UFC 268 in November.

Initially, the UFC had targeted Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 for the event on Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York but COVID-19 restrictions have forced the promotion to change its plans. Whittaker’s manager Titus Day initially shared the news with the Daily Telegraph in Australia with additional sources confirming the changes to the upcoming fight to MMA Fighting on Friday.

“Rob had been told he would be fighting at Madison Square Garden,” Day told the publication. “But there have been some issues since and it can’t happen. Apparently, Adesanya could get into America for the fight, but he wouldn’t have been able to get back to New Zealand immediately afterwards [due to travel restrictions].

“So while we know the fight is going to happen, it’s now become a matter of when. Unfortunately, given everything going on with COVID in Australia and New Zealand at the moment, it may not be until early next year.”

New Zealand and Australia have issued some of the most restrictive bans on travel due to the global pandemic, which has resulted in dramatically lower infection rates and deaths due to COVID-19 but it’s also largely isolated the countries from the rest of the world.

Earlier this week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans to slowly begin reopening the country by relaxing the strict rules in place for travelers, but that won’t go into effect until sometime in early 2022.

Right now even New Zealand citizens are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine after returning to the country and due to a backlog of travelers along with limited space in government-funded facilities, some people are forced to stay away from home for months at a time.

PFL competitor Genah Fabian, who trains alongside Adesanya at City Kickboxing in New Zealand, told MMA Fighting that she’ll travel to the United States for her fight on Aug. 19 and still hasn’t received a ticket required to return home yet.

Fabian added that tickets are released in bunches for New Zealand citizens for travel and currently all of those available have been handed out through November, which means she won’t likely be able to return home until December at the earliest.

“At this time it’s unknown how long I’ll be based in the states,” Fabian told MMA Fighting. “But it will be at least until November, December.”

As for the plans for UFC 268, a welterweight title fight rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington is still currently expected to headline the event.