Israel Adesanya doesn’t really have a problem with fellow middleweight contender Darren Till, but he takes issue with his attitude towards Yoel Romero.
Ever since he moved to 185 pounds, Till has gone to great lengths to express just how much he didn’t want to be forced into a fight against Romero. The Cuban-born Olympic silver medalist has long been considered one of the most feared fighters on the entire UFC roster despite never actually holding a belt.
Thanks to his chiseled physique and explosive knockout power, Romero has rarely been called out by anybody in the division, which is exactly why Adesanya sprinted towards that matchup at UFC 248 this weekend.
While he certainly respects Romero as an opponent, Adesanya just can’t understand why everyone — including Till — seem to be so afraid to fight him.
“Ask Darren Till. He’s scared of him. I’m not,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting. “You should ask Darren Till that. I like Darren, he’s cool. I know he’s just joking around but still even joking that you’re scared?”
When breaking down his upcoming opponent, Adesanya is quick to point out that Romero has been made to look human plenty of times during his career.
Adesanya knows Romero isn’t some undefeated juggernaut, who has just steam rolled the entire middleweight division. Instead, the Nigerian born champion points to plenty of flaws in Romero’s past performances including losses in three of his past four fights not to mention losing more than a few rounds to opponents named Tim Kennedy and Derek Brunson.
“I haven’t been overly impressed,” Adesanya said about Romero. “That’s why I was like why does no one want to fight this guy? I’ve seen him get hurt. I’ve seen him get tagged a lot. Robert Whittaker closed his eye. Everyone’s acting like he’s this super human.
“But I’ve been impressed by his explosiveness and the way he’s kept up his shape at his age. I’ve been impressed by that.”
If there’s one glaring advantage that Romero might have on paper over Adesanya, it’s his world class wrestling ability.
While he doesn’t look to out grapple his opponents all that often, Romero is widely considered one of the most accomplished wrestlers to ever set foot in the Octagon and that’s a skill set he’ll lord over virtually every opponent he would face in the UFC.
When it comes to Adesanya, he may not try to challenge Romero to a wrestling match but he’s more than confident to test his takedown defense in their fight this weekend.
“[Robert] Whittaker was able to just nullify it sometimes or just get back up,” Adesanya said when addressing his Romero’s wrestling skills. “If he can do it and Paula [Costa] had a nice gut wrench on him and sprawled on him.
“I said what I said at the press conference in Auckland. I’ll put my nuts on the back of his head when I sprawl on him and I’ll hit him with an uppercut. On the feet, on the ground, I have all the bases covered.”
If Adesanya is able to get past Romero at UFC 248, he will likely have the next challenger to the title staring back at him from cage side.
Undefeated Brazilian Paulo Costa, who earned a win against Romero last year, was supposed to be the opponent Adesanya faced this weekend but a bicep injury forced him into surgery, which delayed his return until mid-2020.
If Costa is the next person in line to compete for the title, Adesanya has no problem accepting the fight, although he admits there was initially some curiosity to see what other options the middleweight division could present to him.
“I was hoping Darren Till and Jared Cannonier would be on this card so I could kind of see who else is active not f*cking crying about a sore arm,” Adesanya said while taking a shot at Costa. “But if he’s next, he’s next. They can all get it at the end of the day.
“It’s always good to shut someone up, who constantly talks sh*t about you. It will mean something. It will definitely mean something but first I’ve got to get the win this weekend.”
For all the talk about Costa and other potential opponents, Adesanya makes it clear that his real focus remains only on Romero and his prediction for the fight reflects it.
“I’ve been on record saying I want to finish [Romero] but I also don’t mind going five rounds and dominating him from start to finish,” Adesanya said. “Kind of like I did to Brad Tavares.
“I do that to Yoel Romero, show him that you had no chance in this fight. I dominated you from bell to bell.”