A new No. 1 contender emerged for Israel Adesanya at UFC 271 on Saturday night, and the UFC middleweight champion is ready for the fresh challenge.
Just before he met Robert Whittaker in the Octagon for a second time, Adesanya caught a glimpse of the fight between Derek Brunson and Jared Cannonier. Though never explicitly stated by the UFC brass, the winner was expected to challenge either ‘The Last Stylebender’ or ‘The Reaper’ for the middleweight championship, depending on the outcome of their rematch.
Despite a rough start that saw him dropped and locked up in a rear-naked choke, Cannonier turned the tide against Brunson and finished him with a series of hellacious elbows in the second round. The ‘Killa Gorilla’ made sure to take advantage of his time on the microphone, telling UFC president Dana White that he was getting his long-awaited championship opportunity next. And during his press conference with assembled media, White confirmed he would.
“I was excited to see that fight to see how it was going to play out,” said White (video provided by MMA Fighting). “It was an awesome fight. And yeah, I’m not going to say ‘no’ to Cannonier.”
Adesanya went on to best Whittaker again, this time by unanimous decision. Now successful in back-to-back rematches against Whittaker and Marvin Vettori, the City Kickboxing product is shifting his attention to other names sitting atop the division.
“The division is filled with killers, but I’m looking forward to fresh meat,” said Adesanya at his post-fight press conference.
One of those names Adesanya refers to is Cannonier, of course. The 37-year-old has been on his radar for quite some time, and with this emphatic win over Brunson, it makes sense for his next defense to be against the No. 3 ranked contender.
“I just saw bits and pieces [of Cannonier vs. Brunson],” said Adesanya. “I think he even got rocked. I saw he got taken down. Then, he elbowed Brunson. I didn’t really take stock. I’ll go back and watch the fights later on and see what it is. He made a statement. I even told him after the weigh-in, not the ceremonial one, the official weigh-ins. I said, ‘Look, please take this guy out so I can get some fresh meat.’ And he said, ‘Bro, I’m trying to work.’ I said, ‘Me too.’ So I’m a man of my word.”
As for a return to action, Adesanya has set his sights on an event in June.