clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Israel Adesanya wants to be Nigeria’s answer to Manny Pacquiao

New, comments
UFC 221 Ultimate Media Day Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Late last year, fans around the world rejoiced when the UFC signed viral knockout artist, Israel “Style Bender” Adesanya.

His flamboyant and spectacular striking patterns have helped him to an 11-0 record thus far. This weekend in Perth he takes on fellow prospect Rob Wilkinson at UFC 221 in his promotional debut.

“I think a lot of people expect me to run through this guy,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting. “I’m not underestimating him, but I’m not overestimating him either. I know what I do, I do what I do — same energy, different cage.

“I’m not going to get overwhelmed. I was out there in Vegas for UFC 219 to watch my boy Dan Hooker and I was thinking, ‘Ok, this is just another show’. I’ve done it 11 times now, so I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.

“A lot of people in my position now would be shaking in their boots. You can hear it in my voice — this does not bother me. I have no doubt that this guy will be tough, but at the end of the day he’s just another guy.”

Most fans know Adesanya as “Style Bender” — an alias that suits his eye-catching performances to a tee. He explained how the animated series, The Avator, inspired his fighting persona.

“Aang is an Airbender, and he became the Avatar after the last one died. He has to realize his destiny as the Avatar by mastering all of the elements — earth, fire and air. For me, I feel like I’m mastering all the different styles or elements of MMA. It’s my destiny to become the Avatar of this game.”

Adesanya claims he can unlock a deep flow state when he’s fighting he calls “God mode”, which is also borrowed from the same television show.

“Aang hits the Avatar-state and he has this unlimited power. He enters into a flow state, you know, he’s in the zone,” he explained.

“That’s how it feels for me sometimes when I’m fighting. It’s not something that I’ve been able to achieve in every fight, but lately I’m getting to the point where I’m flowing better than ever. It’s a deep flow state. You know, they’ve done tests when people are in that frame of mind and there are all different types of chemicals that are released in your brain when that’s happening.

“You feel like you can’t be touched and you can’t miss. God mode is something that I’ve always tried to unlock within myself. The way I’m feeling right now I think everyone could see it this weekend.”

It feels like Adesanya could be one signature performance away from setting the MMA landscape ablaze. Now that he’s with the biggest promotion in the word, he expects to generate a lot of interest with his debut.

“Now it feels good to be on top of the game with the UFC. I feel like I’m about to take off, I feel like that’s what will happen after my debut, so let’s watch the hype train get overloaded.”

Although MMA has yet to take off in Nigeria, Adesanya thinks he could be the man that ignites the interest in his birth nation; much like Conor McGregor did in Ireland with his debut back in 2013.

“I’ve got Africa stamped on my chest, and I’ve outlined Nigeria because that’s my bloodline. Just two years ago, I thought that we only had 60 million people, but just recently I found it’s more like 180 million or something crazy like that,” he said.

“That’s just in Nigeria, and I know when they ride with you, they ride with you. My goal is to take what Pacquiao did with the Philippines and do it in Nigeria.

“I want to be the guy that introduces Nigerians to this game. People might look at me and think I’m this and that, or I’m special or whatever — I was the runt of my people. I was skinny-ass little kid with a big-ass head. I grew into my head though, thankfully [laughs].

“I see all these kids when I go back home and they’ve got so much potential. I think I’m the only Nigerian that doesn’t f**k with football, everyone loves it over there. Hopefully I can push some other Nigerians into MMA.”