Let it never be said that Israel Adesanya is not a fighting champion.
Since joining the UFC in 2018, Adesanya has fought seven times. After winning the interim middleweight title over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 and then unifying the belts by knocking out Robert Whittaker at UFC 243, Adesanya was on a collision course with top middleweight contender Paulo Costa for early this year. Unfortunately, “Borrachinha” suffered an injury which will sideline him until late spring/early summer. That isn’t stopping Adesanya from keeping up his ridiculous pace though. Instead, “The Last Stylebender” has opted to defend his title against a man many consider to be his biggest threat at 185 pounds: Yoel Romero.
Romero, who has lost two fights in a row, though both by controversial decision, is set to challenge for Adesanya’s title at UFC 248 in March, and though Adesanya is happy with the the fight, he says it took some convincing to get the UFC to book it.
“It was hard to sell it to [the UFC] because they were like, we can’t give a title shot to a guy who’s had numerous title shots, who’s been known for little vet moves or cheating “AKA”, and he’s just a guy that they didn’t think they could sell it,” Adesanya told Submission Radio recently. “But I told them I’d sell it, I’d be the one to put it on. Because he’s the guy that people had been hoping [would beat me]. It’s not really about him. They’re not coming to watch him, they’re coming to watch me because they’re hoping he’s the one to take me out. Cause from the get go, from my first UFC fight, all they ever said was, ‘Feed him to Romero,’ and, ‘He’ll take him down and it’s over’. That’s what all the casuals have felt, that’s what all the experts have felt. So, I just feel like he’s one of those guys, I think he’s one of those guys that he’s… I mean, he scares Darren Till. I don’t see it, but yeah, he’s the guy that scares a lot of people. And no one’s asked to fight him, so I’m doing something different.”
Many fans do believe Romero poses the greatest threat to Adesanya in the division. Aside from being arguably the best athlete to ever compete in MMA, Romero is also an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling and, the theory goes, taking Adesanya down presents the biggest challenge for the accomplished kickboxer. But Adesanya doesn’t see it that way. The middleweight champion believes that, like his fight with Robert Whittaker, he’s going to shock the pundits and style on Romero.
“I’ve had some tough tests,” Adesanya said. “Right now, I still think Kelvin has been my toughest fight so far physically. Mentally, Anderson has been my toughest fight so far. But, we’ll see. That’s yet to be said. I don’t think he’s gonna be. Like, the way the match is shaping up, I don’t really think he’s gonna be. I think he’s gonna be quite… not easy, but I’ll make it look easy.
“I said that about the Robert fight, cause everyone was counting me out. They said, ‘man, this is it, nah, you can’t f*ck with Robert’, this and that. And I said I’ll make it look easy. And what did I do? I made it look easy. I just feel that way for this one as well. I don’t think… Yoel is a guy who’s fought someone who just stays in front of him. He stays in front of him, and yeah, he likes a punching bag, and that I am not.”
To be fair, far fewer people were counting Adesanya out against Whittaker than they are here. Adesanya was a small betting favorite heading into his fight with Whittaker (-130) but is a clear underdog to Romero (+185). That being said, Adesanya currently has a lot of momentum whereas Romero has not officially won a fight in two years, coincidentally, the night of Adesanya’s UFC debut. That’s a long stretch without a win to get a title shot and so Adesanya joked that this could really be viewed as a charity match.
“His last win was my UFC debut,” Adesanya said. “Think about that. Let that sink in. And I said, I haven’t been here for a long time, I’ve only been here for two years. His last win was my UFC debut. He’s a guy that – even that fight, it was for the interim title, right? He didn’t make weight. He could have spent the extra hours or whatever time is given to make the weight. He chose not to because he decided, or his team decided they’d take the fine, and if they win they’ll still get the shot at the title anyway. These are tactics, these are moves that they do. So yeah, he’s a guy… I mean, he’s lost his last three out of four. He’s had two, three different title shots. F*ck, come on. I’m a nice guy. This could be a tax write off for charity.”
It’s lines like that that made the New Zealander the Breakout Fighter of 2018 and have him on the verge of mainstream superstardom. Now all that remains is a few more marquee wins and “The Last Stylebender” could rise to being one of the biggest stars in the sport. One of those could come against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones but first, Adesanya says, he plans on staying just as active as he was before becoming champion, fighting three times in 2020 and hopefully, one more title defense early next year before moving up to face Jones.
“I’ve said it, cause a lot of people are already like, ‘Let’s go to 205, let’s face the champ,’” Adesanya said. “For me, I’m like, just give me a second. I’m only two years in the game. That’s one thing a lot of people are forgetting, I’ve only been here two years. I could have been in the UFC a long time ago, but we took our time so we could properly prepare and not be another stat, another rise and fall superstar, or whatever. So, I’m doing my bit by, you know, I’ve already defended my belt once. I won it in Atlanta, I defended it in Melbourne. I want to defend it like three more times this year. And if I could get one more early next year, that would be cool. And then I’ll step up and fight whoever I want to fight at 205. But yeah, I’m just – like you said, it’s paying homage to the old school, doing right by the division. Winning the belt, defending the belt, and then stepping up. Not just like, win the belt, step up and then hold up the division. The division was already held up a long time cause of Robert [Whittaker], so I don’t want to be that guy.”
UFC 248 takes place on March 7 in Las Vegas.
Beef. Before Super Bowl altercation, Jorge Masvidal sent warning to Kamaru Usman: “I’m going to embarrass you”.
Feud. Joe Rogan to Stephen A. Smith: “You’re a very entertaining guy … but you’re wrong”.
Doctor’s note. Relson Gracie released from jail after judge accepts claim of medicinal cannabis use.
The A-Side Live Chat.
Cyborg broke her nose ahead of Bellator 238.
Usman giving his side of things.
A retrospective on 2019’s MMA coach of the year.
Kevin Lee picks Khabib to beat Tony.
Heavy Hands. Breaking down what happened at UFC Raleigh.
Fights Gone By. Discussing UFC Raleigh and the new UFC P4P rankings.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
Nate to the rescue.
Rogan and Conor should give Stephen Smith a apology he said what it was— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) January 30, 2020
The fight was over before it started
Get offfeachothers nuts
View this post on Instagram
To make fun of tragedy is a true sign of ones character. People are dying, someones father, someones mother, someones child. Say what you want about me if it makes you feel stronger but do not joke about what’s happening here. I wish you good health until March 7th. I will see you soon.
The best buddy cop duo in MMA.
Conor sneaking a Cowboy pic in here.
One of the toughest competitors I’ve ever faced. Hats off to him! https://t.co/vHzyXh7mG0— Gray Maynard (@GrayMaynard) January 29, 2020
Squirrel dumpling diet.
Out here workin hard and gettin stronger! Gotta outwork these fools out here gettin busted by USADA for all this cheatin bullshit I can’t pronounce.— Bryce Mitchell (@ThugnastyMMA) January 30, 2020
Y’all gotta get on that squirrel dumplin and deer meat diet instead. pic.twitter.com/FT6QU8Y1jh
Kelvin Gastelum is back.
UFC/ ZUFFA fight number 21 prep underway. Life’s a beach, I’m just playing in the sand pic.twitter.com/XXJkR3pRxc— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) January 29, 2020
Jessica Rose Clark.
View this post on Instagram
They say the eyes don’t lie. Well I can tell you right now that I hated every single moment of this fight in Moscow. I didn’t want to be there. I think this is worth doing a video about and I will put one on my YouTube soon. The fight game is a crazy thing. I can say, without a doubt, that I NEVER want to feel this way again. The desire to train has been weak since this fight. My ego has been very damaged. My emotions have been very damaged. I’m on the other side now. I’m ready.
Congrats to the Submission Radio team on Episode 200. Hell of an accomplishment and couldn’t happen to better guys.
Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.
Adesanya vs. Romero, who wins?
This poll is closed
If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @JedKMeshew on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram, add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting, and like us on Facebook.