UFC 243 will be remembered for its high point: a stunning second-round knockout of Robert Whittaker served up by undefeated and now undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder Israel Adesanya. The clash between “Bobby Knuckles” and “The Last Stylebender,” sold by the media as Australia versus New Zealand, was what the better part of 57,000 people bought tickets to see, and it will be memorialized as such in highlight reels and “Best of UFC” compilations for the foreseeable future.
However, the weekend of Oct. 4 was much more than the breakout moment for the sport’s most promising young talent; it was the culmination of two decades worth of sacrifice by MMA pioneers. These men worked tirelessly to legitimize and professionalize a sport in Oceania many punters were all too willing to turn their nose up to, overcoming ignorant media and policymakers and ultimately setting the stage for the most-attended UFC fight in history.
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