One of the most exciting talents to hit the UFC in years made his debut last month at UFC 221. Nigerian-born New Zealander Israel Adesanya picked up the first win of his Octagon career, defeating Rob Wilkinson via TKO in the second round. It wasn’t quite the singular performance some had expected, but that hasn’t stopped Adesanya from looking to jump up the middleweight division in a hurry.
“I get a weird sense about these things,” Adesanya said, when asked why he expected to fight Robert Whittaker for the title.” So with Robert, for whatever reason, he might lose the belt then gain it back, or I gain it and he tries to take it away from me in Spark Arena. But I just know me and him are gonna fight in Auckland by the end of 2019, and I just see the way we are because he’s good, I’m great. You know, it’s just gonna be for the belt.”
“I’ve never met the guy,” Adesanya continued. “I’ve seen him across the room or across places, but I’ve never really had a word with him. It’s never anything personal, it’s just business, it’s just the game we’re in. He knows. It’s a fighter thing. When you look at each other and you just kind of have this potential of like, ‘yeah, I see you, you see me’. It’s just a thing. It’s like two dogs looking at each other from across the room sometimes where they can smell each other, like, the scent. You know, when a dog leaves the scent like another dog’s been here and so it just pisses on it. Yeah, so it just kind of been like that with me and him.
“It’s like one of those things that I keep saying as well, these guys, they never mention me, they will never say my name, but like I said, they know who the fuck I am now, so they have to take notice. I’m not just here to make up numbers and show face, I’m here to wreck shop. You can ask him about me, but a lot of these guys, and I see you creepin’ on my Instagram and I see you guys on my shit, but they just wanna pretend like they don’t know me. And it never bothers me, I’m just gonna make them – you don’t have to like me, but you will respect me.”
And while that may seem like a pretty short timeline for a fighter that made his UFC debut this year – and only really started his MMA career in earnest back in 2015 – Adesanya has some serious combat sports credentials to back him up. He put together a 50-5-2 kickboxing record, establishing himself as a world class talent in the sport. He’s even got a 5-1 boxing record as well. That, along with his outspoken personality, is why many fans and pundits see him as a potential future star in MMA.
For Adesanya, however, he seems happy to let everything happen in its own time (even if that time isn’t too far out from now) and to let his work in the ring do most of his talking.
“I’m just doing me,” Adesanya assured. “I don’t have to be the next anything. I’m now. I’m the right now. Everyone else is kind of taking a different route or just sticking to the same blueprint, but I’ve always just kind of felt that I brought something different to this game, not just with my personality, just fight-wise, skill-wise. I mean, at the end of the day, if you can’t fight... You can talk all you want, but if you can’t fight, you ain’t shit. And the way I fight is just different. I’ve always known this, I’ve always felt this, and the whole world is just kind of catching up now.”
“Everything is happening in perfect sequence, my man. Yeah, everything is happening the way it’s supposed to unfold. And people were for years, ‘Oh, get in the UFC, why don’t you just fight in the UFC?’ and I was like, ‘Well, in time,’ cause I wanted to get my experience outside of the UFC. I wanted to be able to jump in the UFC and fight anyone in the world, I wanted to be able to swim with the sharks and then eat them. So now I’m in the shark tank, now I’m in the big blue sea. Yeah, I’m swimming, so I’ll start eating soon.
“But yeah, a lot of these guys, like you said, they jump in off like the Looking for a Fight show with Dana White. Some do good, some not so good. And I just think you don’t want to start too young, you know, you might get burnt out as well. But, I feel like right now I’m just about to hit my prime. Like, you guys haven’t seen anything yet. I’m just about to hit my stride, and this is going to be a steady flow of energy until the time I’m done.”
Israel Adesanya faces Marvin Vettori at UFC on FOX 29 in Glendale, AZ, on April 14th. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news on the event as it approaches, and check out the full interview above, for more of Adesanya’s thoughts on his next opponent.