It took surging middleweight contender Israel Adesanya just one year to rocket up the UFC rankings and get himself a title shot.
Adesanya will face Kelvin Gastelum for the interim middleweight strap this weekend at UFC 236, but Gastelum questions whether ‘The Last Stylebender’ has truly been through the fire and fought the level of competition needed to prepare himself for a fight of this magnitude.
Adesanya recently beat MMA legend Anderson Silva via unanimous decision at UFC 234, but the the former kickboxing champion has come under fire for not being able to finish ‘The Spider.’
Speaking to MMA Fighting in a recent interview, Nigerian-born Adesanya responded by highlighting that Gastelum’s own fight record is littered with wins over older fighters such as Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort.
“So someone actually on Instagram kinda pointed out to me that everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, I fought an old Anderson.’ Anderson’s beaten a lot of the guys [Gastelum]’s beaten when they were younger,” Adesanya said Wednesday at UFC 236 open workouts. “[Gastelum] fought Belfort when he was old, ‘Jacare’ when he was old, Bisping when he was old, (Nate) Marquardt when he was old, and the list goes on. So I don’t know why people aren’t considering that. Like, these guys that he’s dropping, they’re just literally [covering up] and just getting hit. Anderson’s a different kind of beast, so that’s why getting ready for him I felt was harder physically and also a harder fight to deal with than Kelvin.”
Despite the criticism, Adesanya has a tremendous amount of respect for Gastelum and looks forward to a scrappy fight with The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner at UFC 236.
“Kelvin’s not scared, he’s dangerous, and that’s what excites me about him,” he said. “I get to take out a — Mexicans are known for their warrior spirit. He’s got a Mexican style of MMA. So I’m looking to put him on a stake as well.”
UFC 236, which features a headlining interim lightweight tilt between Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway, takes place this Saturday, April 13 at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.