UFC 234 was held in my home town of Melbourne, Australia last weekend (Feb. 10). After spending time shooting in Sydney last month, it was nice to be able to come home to cover the event for FIGHTMAG.
Fight week kicked off with an Open Training display by UFC middleweight champion Rob Whittaker and UFC light heavyweight Jim Crute. The session was held at Absolute MMA in Collingwood. Both fighters demonstrated their different fighting styles whilst working on pads with their respective trainers and grappling partners. On pads, Crute focused on power combinations with head kicks and teeps. Whittaker focused on hands and movement around the cage.
The official Media Day and Open Workouts followed on Thursday Feb. 7. The Open Workouts marked the first open-to-the-public event for the week. Held at Federation Square in the CBD, it was a hot day in Melbourne. But this didn’t stop the crowd of MMA fans waiting patiently for the fighters to arrive and demonstrate their skills.
On Friday Feb. 8, Dana White flew in from the US to appear at the pre-fight Press Conference held at The Palms at Crown Casino. He said he wouldn’t miss this fight card, noting that the event sold out in under 10 minutes.
The final precursor to fight day was the official Weigh-Ins on Saturday Feb. 9. Also an open-to-the-public event, a highlight for the crowd was when Anderson Silva broke down into tears after weighing in. It was a heartfelt moment where he expressed his gratitude to be able to come back and fight after a two-year break.
Early morning on fight day, Sunday Feb. 10, the UFC released a statement with the sad news that Rob Whittaker had to withdraw from the main event due to a stomach issue requiring emergency surgery.
My heart went out to him as I know how hard a fighter works in the lead up to a fight. To have the fight taken away last minute would be shattering. Particularly at his level. But health and safety must come first. At the post-event press conference, Dana White noted that it was incredibly lucky that Whittaker’s stomach issue was identified prior to entering the cage. He said that Whittaker’s intestines had actually “popped out” and that if he had taken a shot to the stomach during the fight “he could have died”.
With Whittaker out, the new main event was the Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya middleweight bout, from which Adesanya emerged victorious.
UFC 234 at Rod Laver Arena
With the main card airing live for primetime Pay-Per-View in the US, UFC 234 commenced at 9:30am Sunday morning Melbourne-time.
The UFC had offered refunds on tickets in light of Whittaker’s departure. But crowds continued to fill Rod Laver Arena throughout the morning. The stadium was packed. Fans were clearly still keen to attend to watch the rest of the card, with very few reportedly taking a refund.
Sitting cage side, the energy in the stadium was electric. The official Fight Of The Night, and also my top pick, was Silva and Adesanya’s three round bout. As Dana White said post-event, the first round “was like watching a Kung Fu movie”. Both fighters are incredibly skilled and demonstrated high IQ. It was a pleasure to watch.
The full fight results from UFC 234: Silva vs. Adesanya can be found here.