Healthy and hungry UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker predicts he will bring too much heat for challenger Israel Adesanya, after overcoming the health scare which threatened his career.
The headline bout on UFC 243 at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium on October 6 will pit Sydneysider Whittaker against the New Zealand-based interim champion.
It will happen almost eight months after Whittaker was forced to pull out on the day of his defence against American Kelvin Gastelum at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena.
Whittaker required emergency surgery after suffering from a collapsed bowel and an internal hernia, with UFC boss Dana White saying the Australian could have died if he had fought and taken a shot to the stomach. .
The thought his fighting career may be over crossed Whittaker's mind that day.
"Definitely. When I was going into surgery, I didn't care whether I had the belt, lost the belt, fought ever again," Whittaker told AAP.
"None of that mattered and it's funny because I think people forget this until they go through these life threatening situations that fighting doesn't matter in the long scheme of things. Your health does."
He resumed training around six weeks after surgery.
"I redoubled my efforts in terms of just focusing on my health, on my strength and conditioning, on my cardio, and I'm much better for it " he said.
"I'm the strongest, fittest and sharpest I've ever been."
Whittaker isn't concerned he will need to get inside and risk getting hit to counter the significant height and reach advantages of Adesanya, who beat Gastelum to win the interim belt in April.
'People seem to think he (Adesanya) is untouchable, but he got touched up in that fight with Gastelum," Whittaker said.
"I'm going to lay the heat on him and if he can handle it and fight well, then all respect to him for doing it.
"But I don't think he's going to be able to. I think its going to be too hot for him."'
Whittaker is relishing the opportunity to fight in Melbourne after being "super frustrated" at missing out in February.
"I am super hungry to get in there and just get to work," he said.
"To be able to come back and give Melbourne the show they deserve and they are owed, and on a bigger scale and with a more anticipated fight, because both fighters are from this side of the planet, it's great. I'm pumped."
Australian Associated Press