Israel Adesanya is facing off against Anderson Silva at UFC 234, in a fight between the division’s fast rising young star, and a faded former champion. The bout happens in Melborne, Australia, just a short flight from Adesanya’s home, and it doesn’t seem too farfetched to conclude that the promotion is hoping this could be a passing of the torch of sorts.
For Adesanya though, this is more than just getting some of Silva’s shine. To the 29-year-old, it’s also about fighting the guy that he idolized and pattered his game from.
“When my movie of my life comes out, this is going to be a f—king pivotal moment,” Adesanya told Luke Thomas at the MMA Hour. “This is going to be that moment like ‘Who writes this shit?’ I mean seriously, I get to f—king beat the guy that actually put me on in the game. So it’s the perfect story. It’s a perfect storybook ending for him as well because after this fight, I mean, he’s done what he’s done so he can he can let me handle it. He’s been the greatest middleweight champion of all time. But I’ll take it from here. I’ll take the torch by force if I have to.”
“I’m a guy that started off modeling my style after his because he’s a skinny black guy like me and I looked up to him,” said Adesanaya “So, I was like ‘If you want to fight your clone, you can fight me. But I’m better than your clone because I’ve studied every single thing you’ve done and every f—king move you made.’ I know when he’s going to chill, I know one he’s going to attack, I know when he’s offensive, I know when he wants to blitz. I’d feel it.
“I know this man better than he knows himself. I know some things about him that he doesn’t even know about himself because I’m on the outside looking in.”
Adesanya went on to compare themselves to the two greatest basketball players of all time.
“This means more to me than the f—king world title,” said Adesanya. “I’m getting choked up even right now even thinking about it. Like honestly, this f—king means the world to me. UFC 90 was the first time I watched this guy fight live. Before that I was watching him on DVDs f—king murking dudes. This is like LeBron James getting to face Michael Jordan.
“So this means more to me than any f—king shiny belt. Like, I can kill this guy and then I can be like ‘I’ve done what I came here to do. I’m done.’ But, I’m not done. After this, I’ll go on to do other things. Yeah, the belt comes with it. But I’ll carry on the legacy of the other avatars in this game.”
Comparing himself to a decorated champion and arguably one of the greatest athletes ever, probably speaks to Adesanya’s confidence, but there is some truth to his analogy. LeBron would surely be beyond honored to share the court with the man that inspired him to wear number 23, and if they seriously faced off in 2019, he’d also dominate the much older star in Jordan.
The comparisons end there though.
Silva had some mainstream appeal, and Adesanya looks like the most promising contender on the UFC roster, but Jordan and LeBron are basically iconic brands with mainstream influence stretching far beyond sports. They also wouldn’t be trying to hurt each other and possibly make a passing of the torch situation look brutal and depressing for a good chunk of fans.
In terms of what it likely does for Adesanya’s career, a more apt analogy could be Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko, or to some degree, Manny Pacquiao vs Oscar De La Hoya.
Either way, it seems like Adesanya really got the UFC on board with his plan, and February 10 could indeed be the “pivotal moment” of his career. The Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum championship bout is the main event at UFC 234, so Adesanya not only gets a chance to grab some of Silva’s shine, he also gets to build up a future title bout against the headliner on the same night.