Jared Cannonier knew it was only a matter of time before he got the attention of the best middleweights in the world. But he definitely was happy to know new champion Israel Adesanya had kept an eye on him.
Fresh off a knockout win over Jack Hermansson, Cannonier watched Adesanya knock out Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 to win the title. Cannonier was pleasantly surprised to hear the new champ’s post-fight comments on middleweights who’ve impressed him.
“Jared Cannonier,” Adesanya said at the post fight press conference. “I like that guy. He’s a cool dude. I like his style. I like the fact he came down from heavyweight to light heavyweight to middleweight. I’m impressed by what he’s doing.”
In a sport where so many fighters build their reputations on tearing down potential opponents, Cannonier happy that Adesanya paid him a compliment, and so he returned one in kind.
“It’s definitely high praise coming from the middleweight champion, let alone a striker of that caliber,” Cannonier told MMA Fighting when asked about Adesanya’s comments. “A fighter with the kind of experience that he’s had; he’s had over 100 fights. That’s a lot of experience. He’s been doing this a long time. He probably has a keener eye of what’s going on in the division and he recognizes.
“I get better every time I step into the Octagon. I’m always focused on getting better. I’m not focusing on being the best. I’m not focused on being the man like a lot of these guys going around. A lot of fighters, it’s just a mindset they get into, they do something good and they pat themselves on the back for the rest of their career until things go wrong for them. I’m not doing that. I’m focusing on being better than I was yesterday. Improvement is an ongoing process for me.”
With a 3-0 record at middleweight – and all three of those wins coming by knockout – Cannonier hopes the rest of the division will take notice of him. But getting the champion’s attention is obviously the long term goal.
“Izzy has already noticed that; he’s taken note of that,” Cannonier said. “Eventually, everybody else is going to take notice, and if they don’t, it’s already going to be too late if they’re standing across the Octagon from me,” Cannonier said.
When it comes to Adesanya’s performance against Whittaker, Cannonier was equally impressed by what unfolded that night.
“I thought he did perfectly,” Cannonier stated. “Everybody knew the general approach to fighting someone tall and long like that, and mix that with an elite level striker, you’ve really got to push the point as far as getting inside and commanding the fight. Because if you give a long guy a chance to sit there and find his shots, that’s what he’s going to do.
“He knew exactly what to expect from Whittaker, and he dealt with it perfectly. He used his evasiveness, good head movement and counter striking and caught him while he was on the inside.”
As far as a potential matchup in the future, Cannonier would love to challenge himself against a fighter like Adesanya, who presents an entirely different kind of puzzle to solve.
“It’s not everyday you get to fight someone like that,” Cannonier said about Adesanya. “Someone with the physique that he has to go along with the talent and technique that he employs. I love that challenge. I definitely love that challenge.
“I’ve definitely thought about that. I’ve definitely meditated on that. I’ve put certain types of energies out there that I expect to come back to me. I expect to win that fight whenever it happens.”
As much as he’d like to see Adesanya staring back across the Octagon from him for his next fight, the 35-year-old Texas native understands he’s probably going to have to wait for the new king to face Brazilian slugger Paulo Costa in his first title defense.
That’s no bother, as Cannonier is more than happy to secure his place as the No. 1 contender. He welcomes another bout next year against a top ranked opponent such as Whittaker, Yoel Romero or the winner of the upcoming fight between Kelvin Gastelum and Darren Till.
“I don’t like waiting,” Cannonier said. “I don’t want to wait. What I expect is either a contender’s fight, or a title fight.
“Those are the only fights I would probably take at this point. I don’t want to be fighting backwards. I don’t want to make the same mistake Jack [Hermansson] did fighting me.”