Israel Adesanya isn’t immune to criticism, but he’s also not willing to take the lion’s share of the blame for his fight against Yoel Romero at UFC 248.
The highly-anticipated middleweight title fight didn’t play out the way many had hoped, to say the least. Adesanya picked his moments to attack while Romero was tentative with his explosive arsenal of weapons.
The end result was a five-round fight that was met with far more boos than cheers. But ultimately, Adesanya walked away with the title still wrapped around his waist.
In the days and weeks following the fight, Adesanya saw plenty of fiery comments about his performance that night, not to mention those who believe Romero actually won. Now, Adesanya is firing back while pointing out the flaws in Romero’s argument that it’s somehow his fault the fight didn’t play out in more exciting fashion.
“I was there to fight,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting. “I was there actually attacking, probing, being smart about it. His first chance was when he actually punched my eyeball and sent my eyeball into the back of my skull. That was his chance. Anyone could see, ‘He’s compromised, attack the guy, he’s compromised,’ but he stood there still for like another two minutes.
“That just showed me he didn’t want to fight. He was just hoping I’d make the same mistake twice. I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. It was like he was expecting me to stand there and get hit. Bro, you stood there, you forced my hand to move, I made a mistake. I got a hard head, he didn’t drop me. That hit me in the eye completely. Did not wobble me. Did not shake me. Did not rock me. Did not drop me.”
After eating Romero’s best shot, Adesanya adjusted his game plan. Unfortunately, he said Romero failed to do anything to change the course of the fight in his favor.
“I thought OK, be smart about how you enter next time,” Adesanya explained. “Don’t enter straight away, down the middle, angle off to the side first before you attack, or make sure your foot is in the right spot before you attack so his left hand’s not there. He was never able to land that throughout the whole fight again, if you notice.
“Look at Anderson Silva in the second round when he jabbed me in the eye, and I started seeing two Andersons. Anderson started putting the pressure on, feints, looks, like he was actually bringing the fight. But a guy who hits you directly in the eye, first punch landing in the fight, and he just stands there for another f*cking two minutes. That’s so idiotic. And then the rest of the fight he just stands there and expects you to do something, and I’m just tagging him. It was just stupid on his part.”
While it’s not a fight that will end up on his all-time highlight reel, Adesanya said he did what he needed to do to win. It may not have been the knockdown, drag-out fight expected, but winging punches with Romero for 25 minutes would’ve been the dumbest game plan possible.
“This quarantine would have sucked,” Romero said. “If I’d gone out there and fought a smart game plan and did what I did and he beat me on skill, I’d be able to sleep at night.
“But if I went in there made that same mistake twice and did something reckless that got me dropped or finished, it would be really hard to sleep at night right now. Because I know I compromised myself.”
As far as the reaction he got from the crowd that night and the litany of fans who’ve bombarded him with criticism afterward, Adesanya isn’t too concerned.
“I don’t give a f*ck what these drunks are thinking about in the crowd, all these fans, quote-unquote, I don’t really give a f*ck what they think,” Adesanya said. “I know for me, I wouldn’t be able to sleep with myself at night. That’s what matters.”