Robert Whittaker will discover my greatness first hand, Israel Adesanya says

White entertained by Adesanya's win over Silva (1:31)

UFC president Dana White says Anderson Silva faced a mirror image of himself in Israel Adesanya at UFC 234. (1:31)

Believe the hype.

That's the message from Israel Adesanya to Robert Whittaker after the injured middleweight titleholder declared his trans-Tasman rival to be "not as good as he thinks he is".

The verbal exchange has added to a bubbling UFC narrative that will explode later this year, as long as Adesanya defeats American Kelvin Gastelum in Atlanta on April 13.

Adesanya and Gastelum will face off for the interim middleweight title at UFC 236 in Atlanta, as confirmed to ESPN by UFC president Dana White, after the Californian's showdown with Whittaker in Melbourne was derailed at the eleventh hour when the middleweight champion was rushed to hospital with a hernia.

Asked what he thought of the Adesanya while he continues his recovery from surgery, Whittaker told Grange TV: "I think Adesanya isn't as good as he thinks he is. I think he's very good -- very, very good -- and I have a lot of respect for his skill set, 100 percent. He's a dangerous guy.

"But I don't think the pedestal that he's on is as high as everyone else thinks it is, and he thinks it is."

When ESPN put those comments to Adesanya on Tuesday morning (AEDT), the response was simple: "The Last Stylebender" just pointed to his 16-0 record, five of which have come in the UFC over the past 12 months.

"I'm pretty sure everyone who's ever fought me has thought the exact same thing, and look what happens to them. So in time, in time, definitely he'll [Whittaker] find out that I'm greater than I think I am."

While Whittaker was unable to fight Gastelum, who himself wasn't exactly a picture of health after he admitted, postfight, to having a staph infection, Adesanya simply went about his business in taking down UFC legend Anderson Silva.

Adesanya recorded a unanimous decision win over the Brazilian in what the Kiwi described as one of the best moments of his life to date.

"It was historic for me; it was really historic for me," Adesanya told ESPN. "To get in there and [battle] with the guy who I consider the best of all time, it's like a milestone in my career and not just fighting career, but in my life.

"I controlled the fight, I had him [Silva] where I wanted him. In hindsight I might look at the fight in a couple of years and I might realise something, but I'm happy the way it turned out."

Adesanya's showdown with Gastelum will be the Nigerian-born New Zealander's sixth fight in 14 months, a run few others in the sport can boast. Adesanya clearly has no interest in biding his time, declaring a rigorous preparation as the reason he is able to return to the Octagon so quickly.

"I don't really take punishment from fights; the punishment is from the training, from my teammates," he said. "That's where I really break my body down.

"But to be honest, it just shows you the kind of experience I have. I've had a lot of experience outside the UFC before I got in there, and a lot of people didn't see that, they don't know that, so they think I'm fresh to this sport. But I'm able to fight smart and stay fresh."