UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker admitted he has struggled to get an international presence, particularly in the US.
Whittaker takes on Israel Adesanya in the main event of UFC 243 this October in a venue that is likely to be in Australia. The middleweight title unification fight has been regarded as the biggest fight in Australasian history.
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But even without his New Zealand-bred counterpart, Whittaker has always been a big draw in Australia. When he headlined UFC Fight Night against Derek Brunson at Melbourne in 2016, it was a sell-out with 13,721 fans and a live gate of $2.2 million AUD ($1.55 million USD).
And while he is yet to headline a card there as a champion because of injury, the two times he was scheduled to do so saw both events sell out instantly.
The same, particularly with “The Reaper” being a major draw, can’t be said outside of Australia and New Zealand, however. When asked in a recent Q&A on Grange TV if he found it difficult to establish an international presence, Whittaker agreed, stating two reasons:
“That’s a good question, that’s a very good question,” Whittaker responded. “You know, a little bit. For the obvious reasons. One, I’m in Australia, the time zone is different as well as cultural and social differences that make translating a little bit hard. Especially when the distance is honestly like a 20 hour flight, that’s a big difference.
“The second one is, it’s hard for me to have a presence in the US without being in the US, going to US events, showing my face on US stuff in US hours.”
Other factors could be that Whittaker has competed just thrice since the start of 2017 while he isn’t the trash talking type of fighter either.
That said, his injury worries seem to be behind him now. And a win over the red-hot Adesanya could further boost his profile abroad, even if the fight does take place in Australia.