clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Israel Adesanya promises he won’t be ‘just another statistic’ overwhelmed by superstardom

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Israel Adesanya understands the pitfalls that often follow superstardom.

The UFC’s middleweight champion, who is quickly becoming one of the most talked about fighters on the entire roster, came into the promotion with a strategy regarding his path to the title as well as his long term plans to leave behind a lasting legacy.

It took him less than two years to win the undisputed title at 185 pounds and he’s already been attached to possible fights against light heavyweight king Jon Jones as well as reigning heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.

As ambitious as that plan might seem, Adesanya doesn’t do anything without purpose.

On the day he joined the UFC roster, the Nigerian born middleweight had a very specific plan in mind regarding his fighting future. The same can be said for his approach to handling the new found fame that has followed him in recent months after he engaged in the “Fight of the Year” in 2019 and then dismantled former champion Robert Whittaker inside two rounds this past October in front of more than 57,000 fans in Australia.

“You guys don’t understand how much I planned this sh*t,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting. “I planned it, me and my coach from the jump. I’m glad I wasn’t 23 with all this money, all this fame.

“Now I’m 30. I’m smart. I know exactly who I am and I’m still learning about myself but I’m not a young, dumb, full of c*m kid, who makes f*cked up decisions. I’m smart about the way I move. I’m smart about the way I conduct myself outside the Octagon, like who I associate myself with. I’ve taken the right precautions to make sure I’m just not another statistic.”

A perfect example of Adesanya’s level-headedness when it comes to his future might be the approach he’s taken to a potential “superfight” against Jones at 205 pounds.

While he’s engaged in a very public war of words with the UFC light heavyweight champion, Adesanya isn’t trying to rush into a showdown with him before he’s truly ready.

Jones has claimed Adesanya is “scared” to face him because he’s been adamant about clearing out the middleweight division before taking aim at a second world title next year.

Adesanya counters by pointing out that he’s been middleweight champion for less than a year and there’s still work to be done in his own division — something he believes Jones should understand considering he’s never even attempted a move to heavyweight.

“I could have jumped up already and fought at light heavyweight like everyone else is doing but I want to wipe out the division like guys like Demetrious Johnson and guys like Georges St-Pierre,” Adesanya explained. “Guys like Anderson Silva, who stuck with a division, cleaned it out and then moved up.

“Jon Jones hasn’t done that. He’s been there 10 years and he’s expecting me to move up in just my second year in the company. Me, I like middleweight and I’d like to clean it out but I like to challenge myself. That’s what it’s about.”

There’s no doubt that Adesanya’s calendar includes a date for Jones in the future but he refuses to cater to childish taunts about how he’s supposedly frightened to take the fight.

“That’s why I’m not rushing,” Adesanya said. “That’s why I said I’ll get to Jon Jones in 2021 when I say so. That’s why I’m not rushing. I make moves on my terms.”

The same goes for a possible fight at heavyweight down the road — a move first teased by his head coach Eugene Bareman when he talked about Adesanya’s future prospects.

“My coach put it out there and I see what he means,” Adesanya said. “There’s a lot of things I could exploit but baby steps. I can’t just jump at it.”

Like everything else he’s done in the UFC thus far, Adesanya is measured with his response and his expectations for the future. He knows he’ll eventually get there but Adesanya is playing the long game with his career.

“I’d rather be very well prepared before I move to heavyweight or light heavyweight,” Adesanya explained. “That’s according to my own schedule — no one else’s.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting