Israel Adesanya answered a lot of questions about where he stands in the middleweight division Friday, and now it’s his turn to call the shots.
The main event of The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale in Las Vegas saw Adesanya win a convincing five-round unanimous decision over veteran Brad Tavares and while there was much to discuss about his performance, reporters at the evening’s post-fight press conference couldn’t resist inquiring about what’s next for the 28-year-old.
At first, he denied that he was fixated on any specific opponent, even budding rival Uriah Hall.
“I don’t even care about him,” Adesanya said when asked to clarify why he mentioned Hall in his speech immediately following Friday’s main event. “I just want to fight the best. I want to fight the guys that are ranked above me, even though I don’t care about rankings because they’re just opinions anyway. Even if a guy is below me and wants to fight, I’ll take the fight if it makes sense.
“I like fighting, I like this game, I can’t do it forever, so right now I realize I’ve just got to enjoy it while I can and just relish and bask in it and be grateful that I’m here doing this.”
Adesanya has found plenty of success in MMA following a career as a kickboxer. He is now 14-0, with wins in all three of his Octagon appearances, and his bout with the durable Tavares resulted in him showing facets of his game beyond flashy striking.
As much as Adesanya continues to improve with every appearance, he apparently still has a long way to go when it comes to being recognized for his efforts. Undefeated middleweight Paulo Costa competes at UFC 226 on Saturday and word got to Adesanya that the Brazilian fighter was dismissive when he was asked for his thoughts on “The Last Stylebender”.
“I saw something the other day, where he said he doesn’t know who I am,” Adesanya said. “Well, you know who the f*ck I am now. Understand that? I said that from my first fight, these guys trying to pretend like they don’t know me, then they creeping all on my Instagram and shit. Hey, win your fight tomorrow and I’ll see you later on.”
Adesanya went on to say that he will be cageside at UFC 226 to watch Hall and Costa face off and that he’s interested in fighting the winner of that contest. However, he’s long had his sights set on even bigger fish: UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
Whittaker hails from Australia though he was born in New Zealand, where Adesanya grew up. For Adesanya, it makes perfect sense that the two of them clash in New Zealand, a scenario that he has envisioned time and time again.
“I told you guys. I already said it before my UFC debut. You’re going to see me and Robert Whittaker one day at Spark Arena in Auckland for the title,” Adesanya said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve seen this. All this, I’ve done it before.”
“I visualized this fight when I was in the shower today, different scenarios and all that kind of thing, but Robert Whittaker, that’s going to come one day, guaranteed,” he later added. “Even if it’s not for the title, but I think he’s going to keep that belt for a little while. He’s tough, he’s a smart kid, I think he’s going to keep that belt for a little while and I’ll come take it off him. Snatch it off him.”