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Whittaker eyes 'hittable' Adesanya in UFC

AAP logoAAP 14/04/2019 Adrian Warren
Israel Adesanya holds up the belt after defeating Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision in their interim middleweight championship bout during the UFC 236 event at State Farm Arena on April 13, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. © 2019 Carmen Mandato Israel Adesanya holds up the belt after defeating Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision in their interim middleweight championship bout during the UFC 236 event at State Farm Arena on April 13, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Australia's UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has praised the performance of his next challenger, Israel Adesanya, but says the Nigerian-born Kiwi is "hittable".

With Whittaker recovering from a recent operation, Adesanya claimed the interim title with a unanimous points win over American Kelvin Gastelum in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday AEST.

Gastelum was meant to fight Whittaker in Melbourne in February but the champion was rushed to hospital for abdominal surgery on the morning of the scheduled bout.

Instead the American slugged it out in an epic five-round contest with Adesanya.

Whittaker said he would be happy to fight Adesanya in August provided the confident New Zealander recovered well from his torrid fight.

"He showed a lot of heart. He got hit a little bit and came back," said Whittaker.

"He was very accurate, with high volume. It was a very impressive win.

Whittaker believed Adesanya's style presented opportunities he could exploit.

"He's hittable. I'm better at striking (than Gastelum). I'm going to punch him and I am very, very good at it, very fast and hit hard and he doesn't like getting hit."

Whittaker said a bout between Abesanya and himself would be one of the biggest combat sports events ever held in Australasia.

A venue has still be to determined but Whittaker said he would welcome fighting in Australia, despite injury forcing him out of his last two scheduled fights on home soil.

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