Challenger Israel Adesanya says Robert Whittaker will be under more pressure than him in Sunday's UFC middleweight title fight in Melbourne but the champion has promised to drag his opponent into the trenches.
New Zealand-based Adesanya will have more than 200 supporters from his gym and plenty of other Kiws in the Marvel Stadium crowd but suggested Whittaker would carry the burden of a nation's hopes.
"He's in his own country, he doesn't want to let everyone down," Adesanya said when asked which of them would be under greater pressure.
"Pressure is an acquired taste like caviar.
"He's not going to like the way it tastes. I think it's delicious."
Whittaker won torrid battles against Cuban Yoel Romero in his past two bouts and doubted whether Adesanya would be able to withstand the heat he will bring
"I'm going to drag him into the trenches, lets see if he wants to leave early," Whittaker said.
Interim middleweight champion Adesanya boasts a 17-0 MMA record and is widely regarded as the next UFC superstar
But Whittaker who is two years younger at 28, stressed he hadn't reached his peak despite a five-year, nine-fight winning streak.
"Every year I'm getting better, every year I have harder fights and I've got a lot of years left in me," Whittaker said.
Adesanya hinted he had tricks in his repertoire he hadn't yet shown that could be unveiled on Sunday.
"No-one has ever seen me with my wrestling yet, they've only seen my anti- wrestling they saw a little bit of my Jiu Jitsu in my last fight," Adesanya said.
"Lets put it this way, I've seen his hand, I haven't shown all my hand yet."
Adesanya predicted Whittaker would try to wrestle at some stage of the bout.
"If I see a takedown, I'll take it, if I can kick him in the foot, I will, I'm going to do what I have to, to get this win," Whittaker said.
Australian Alex Volkanovski who will challenge featherweight world champion Max Holloway in December, said he wished Whittaker well, but would be backing Adesanya who he works alongside at City Kickboxing in Auckland.
"I wish Rob Whittaker all the best. he's a great champion, I'm still a massive fan," Volkanovski said.
"But there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears that happen in that gym and it's too hard not to be rooting for him (Adesanya) on Sunday."
Meanwhile, Whittaker today weighed in marginally heavier than Adesanya for his title defence.
The Sydneysider has come in right on the limit of just under 84 kilos, with Adesanya half a kilo lighter.