Robert Whittaker can assert himself as Australia’s most popular fighter this Sunday, with his UFC 271 headliner fashionable to break national Pay-Per-View records.
Already enjoying the title of Australia’s first UFC champion, Whittaker is now looking to set a new mark for the biggest UFC card titled by an Australian when he takes on middleweight king Israel Adesanya in Houston, Texas.
Should the Sydneysider reclaim the gold bracelet he lost to Adesanya in 2019 and stage a blockbuster trilogy fight, then he could challenge Anthony Mundine’s former tag of our undisputed PPV king.
FIGHT TIME – 2:00 PM AEDT Sunday February 13
WHERE: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Watch UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker LIVE on Main Event available on Kayo & Foxtel, Sunday, February 13 from 2 p.m. AEDT. ORDER NOW >
In fact, UFC executives say their numbers show the No. 1 middleweight contender is already leading an exciting new field that includes Tim Tszyu, Paul Gallen, George Kambosos Jnr and Alexander Volkanovski.
While the Main Event rarely publicly reveals its fight numbers or compares numbers between sports, UFC top executive David Shaw insists the fighter nicknamed Bobby Knuckles is already at the top of the pile Down Under. thanks to its power of attraction not only locally, but globally, on a variety of streaming services.
“From what we’re seeing, it’s clear that Whittaker is the number one pay-per-view star in Australia,” said Shaw, UFC senior vice president, International & Content.
“He is the biggest name representing Australian combat sports and fighter fans want to see the most.
“And now his rematch with Israel Adesanya is a real high level fight, with Rob looking to avenge the only loss he has suffered in the past eight years.
“Only a trilogy fight could top that.”
Whittaker’s agent Titus Day agreed, adding that his charge also had a much wider global reach than his boxing rivals.
“It’s the fight that cements Rob as Australia’s No.1 fighter,” he said.
“Throughout the Covid pandemic, the UFC has entered another stratosphere both around the world and here in Australia. And Rob Whittaker is the face of it.
“On Instagram alone, he has over a million followers.”
When Whittaker and Adesanya first met at UFC 243, the pair garnered a live portal of nearly 60,000 fans, or more than $5 million – a UFC record – while the The worldwide PPV audience was estimated at 500,000.
This figure is expected to increase further this weekend.
His Instagram numbers are also double those of anyone else on the court, which also includes Olympian Harry Garside, the Moloney twins and cult UFC heavyweight Tai Tuivasa.
Elsewhere, Tszyu’s international profile is also set to explode in March, when the undefeated super welterweight will make his all-American fight against Olympian Terrell Gausha – with a win that will put him in line for a shot at the undisputed title.
Notably, another Aussie who is rapidly rising in the popularity stakes is UFC featherweight champion Volkanovski, whose PPV pulling power has seriously increased after back-to-back title defenses against Max Holloway and Brian Ortega – the latter of whom would have made huge numbers on the Main Event.
Mt Druitt slugger Tuivasa must also be in the mix thanks to his streak of four straight knockouts, each of which was followed by that now iconic ‘Shoey’ celebration.
Better still, the Mt Druitt slugger can chase a fifth straight knockout this Sunday against American favorite Derrick Lewis in Sunday’s UFC 271 co-main event.
When it comes to Australian PPV fight numbers, Mundine has long been considered the king, with his 2006 showdown against Danny Green drawing around 200,000 viewers.
This is said to have surpassed even Floyd Mayweather’s big fights against Manny Pacquiao (195,000) and Conor McGregor (190,000), while Mundine’s Green rematch in 2017 also saw 100,000 buys.
The second best in boxing was Tim Tszyu vs. Jeff Horn (94,000), then Mundine vs. Horn (73,000) and Horn vs. Pacquiao (63,000).