Israel Adesanya has made it clear he has nothing but the greatest respect for Anderson Silva’s career. And that’s why he’s looking forward to being part of its twilight.
In a battle between the middleweight division’s future and its most celebrated champion, Adesanya will face Silva in the co-main of UFC 234 on Saturday at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. After making an impressive debut at UFC 221 just 12 months ago, many pundits predicted that “The Last Stylebender” would one day wear gold around his waist.
That’s a distinction Silva knows all too well. He reigned as UFC middleweight champion from October 2006 to July 2013, successfully defending his title ten consecutive times. That run cemented the Brazilian’s spot in the MMA pantheon. Now, at 43, Silva heads into UFC 234 as a major underdog.
Given Silva’s influence on the sport and especially Adesanya himself, he wants to make sure that the Brazilian legend is given his proper respect before being vanquished.
“I’ve seen the odds this week and I’m like y’all musta forgot, like Roy Jones said. Y’all musta forgot, you don’t know that man over there, Anderson Silva,” Adesanya said at a UFC 234 press conference Thursday. “I think a lot of you new fans weren’t around during his reign, what it felt like. You might have come around the (Ronda) Rousey era or the (Conor) McGregor era, but you don’t realize who this guy is. He brought me into this game.
“This guy inspired me to be able to believe a skinny black guy can just come in here and f*ck everyone up. He brought me into this game and for me, it will be an honor to take him out the game.”
Adesanya and Silva were cordial during Thursday’s presser, continually praising each other with Silva saying more than once that he felt “lucky” to be fighting someone as talented as Adesanya. The two met in person for the first time during fight week and Adesanya had a unique takeaway from the encounter.
“It was pretty quick, it was in a rush, but he smelled nice. Really nice. Nice cologne on him,” Adesanya said, before evoking one of Silva’s most memorable phrases. “Put me on his Instagram Live and it was just, ‘is normal.’”
More than just the opportunity to face an idol, it was confirmed at the presser by UFC president Dana White that Adesanya will be fighting Silva with a title shot on the line. Current middleweight champion Robert Whittaker takes on Kelvin Gastelum in Saturday’s main event.
According to Adesanya, it took some convincing for White to make it official, but after a first-round TKO of Derek Brunson at UFC 230 this past November, there was no denying him.
“After 230, I texted [White] straight after the fight, I wanted to fight this guy,” Adesanya said. “He was like, ‘Pump the brakes, kid.’ But yeah, when we had a meeting we talked face to face. I let him know this ain’t my first rodeo. I’ve been doing this for a long time as well.
“So the cat’s out of the bag, I’m about to be champion, 2019.”