Kiwi UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will delay his next title defence to help Junior Fa for his highly-anticipated heavyweight boxing clash against Joseph Parker.
Adesanya was hopeful of squeezing in one more fight in 2020 against the winner of Jarod Cannonier versus Robert Whittaker on December 12 - just one day after the all Kiwi heavyweight boxing bout - but instead he'll work as a sparring and motivational partner for Fa.
Last month, Adesanya demolished Brazil’s Paulo Costa on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in his second successful title defence, his first came in March when he beat Cuban Yoel Romero.
Adesanya's trainer Eugene Bareman and his assistant Tristram Apikota have worked with Fa during his professional career and the pair have committed themselves to help the 30-year-old prepare for one of the biggest boxing fights in NZ history.
Fa has often helped Adesanya prepare for UFC fights are the pair both train out of Auckland's world-renowned City Kickboxing.
"Me and Tristram [Apikota] – who are integral parts of Israel's coaching team, we've been there for every fight – have committed ourselves to Junior," Bareman told 1News.
"And fair enough, it's Junior's time in the limelight now.
"Although Israel wanted to fight in December, he does not want to fight without his coaching team so he's going to have to push his timetable out to fight in early next year.
"We're a team – if you have to move because another fighter is in the limelight, then Israel is more than happy to move aside so Junior can get his fight done. That's just how you operate as a team.
"Without hesitation, Israel is like, 'yes, there's big money involved but there's big money involved for Junior as well. This is the biggest payday, it's the biggest fight of Junior's life'".
Fa and Parker split two wins apiece in amateur ranks, with the former winning the first and fourth encounters, but their professional careers have taken completely different routes, with Parker claiming a WBO world title and Fa's health issues stalling his progress.
Despite the setbacks, Fa has worked his way into the top 10 of the WBO world rankings, sitting sixth, with Parker third.
Meanwhile, with Adesanya putting his title defence on hold, Bareman revealed that the pair are looking at moving up a weight class to light heavyweight.
Bareman says the goal is to become a two-weight champion and they will target an immediate title shot against current titleholder Jan Blachowicz.
"Cannonier was the option for this year but we've taken that option off the table," Bareman told 1News.
"Now we want to fight next year and our preferred fight next year is at [light heavyweight].
"If we have to push it to next year, then our preferred option, the fight that we are going to try and negotiate to the best of our ability is going to be at 205 [pounds] for the title."