The meteoric rise of Israel Adesanya

Israel Adesanya celebrates his win over Derek Brunson at UFC 230. Photo: UFC / Getty Images.

The past 18 months have witnessed an irresistible force emerge from the furthest reaches of the world and across six fights for six wins its momentum has just kept building.

Comparisons to Conor McGregor and even the star power of Ronda Rousey have been flung around, but it’s nothing new Israel Adesanya.

Within the UFC’s middleweight division, no one really knows what to make of a 29-year-old from New Zealand, by way of Nigeria, whose record now stands at 17-0, and who can come at his opponents hard and fast, who can duck and weave and prove almost impossible to tag.

So far the only man who got close was Kelvin Gastelum, who pushed Adesanya all five rounds at UFC 236. Those “errors” on Adesanya’s part have been swiftly deal with.

“That was just an error on our part and a beautifully crafted game plan on their part,” he says of the fight.

“I think what his camp might look at is the last fight and think oh, well Kelvin was able to get close. We’ve taken care of those errors and those misjudgments on our side.”

Another Level

Come Sunday at UFC 243 in Melbourne, Adesanya shares the spotlight with NZ-born Australian Robert Whittaker, and will rewrite the record books in what is widely expected to be a sold out Marvel Stadium – with some 60,000 expected to attend.

Israel Adesanya

Among the more impressive aspects of Adesanya’s rise has been how the 29-year-old continues to take it all in his stride.

“It’s been a long road, but I’ve adjusted very well to everything that this game has to offer because I’ve prepped myself, I’ve seen everyone rise, I’ve seen some people fall, some people be their own worst enemy and be their own detriment,” he says.

“But, yes, I’m used to being famous now. I’ve learned how to be famous and a lot of people don’t prepare for it and it’s something I can change life for the better or for the worst so I’ve prepped for it to my advantage.”

Part of that preparation came during Adesanya’s kickboxing career, one which ended with a record of 75-5-1 and – like history’s great prize fighters – saw him travel to fight wherever the fights were offered. Mostly they came in China, and years spent there seemed to be the making of Adesanya as fighter and as a man.

Kelvin Gastelum pushed Israel Adesanya all five rounds at UFC 236. Photo: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports.

And that brings Adesanya to this exact moment in time, one day out from the fight that could well decide his destiny. Don’t for a moment think he’s not fully prepared.

“It doesn’t really matter what he’s bringing. I’m just going to do what I do. I could start fast, I could start slow, how I please, or I mean, how he presents himself to me.”


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