This past weekend, Israel Adesanya successfully defended his middleweight championship with a unanimous decision over Robert Whittaker at UFC 271. The win was Adesanya’s fifth undisputed championship win, and in the aftermath, he received props from another five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time champion: WWE Hall of Famer Booker T.
Booker T, who lives in Houston, attended UFC 271 as a media member, which briefly caused Adesanya to fanboy out for a moment, but Adesanya wasn’t the only one to be excited. Speaking with Ariel Helwani on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour, the WWE Hall of Famer was equally as impressed by the middleweight champion.
“For Izzy to actually pay respect to Booker T, it just lets me know how I made him feel as a young kid growing up, hopefully one day to inspire just like I did,” Booker T said. “You could tell he was a fan. You could tell he loves, not just what I did for him, but the game of professional wrestling, entertainment. He’s a performer. He’s the Muhammad Ali of the MMA world. I tell you, he’s a generational talent, and they only come along few and far between.”
Booker T went on to call Adesanya his favorite active fighter and was complimentary of his fight at UFC 271, despite many fans giving the champion flak for turning in a much less dominant performance than in his first encounter with Whittaker.
“It was a close fight,” Booker T said. “I can’t sit here and say it wasn’t a close fight. It was very strategic. You could tell Whittaker went and changed a whole lot in his game, and that he didn’t want to go out the same way he did in the first fight. You could tell Israel was very, very cautious as far as his approach. It was just a technical fight, but that’s the way fights are. Every fight is not going to be that spectacular knockout. Every fight is not going to be that fight where we look back in history and say, ‘Man, it was great!’ The fighter is all about walking out with a W.”
Adesanya certainly managed to do that, and now the middleweight champion is entering rarefied air. With a 22-1 record, Adesanya is undefeated in the middleweight division and already stands second all-time in UFC middleweight title defenses, behind only Anderson Silva.
Next, Adesanya will likely defend his belt against Jared Cannonier, who also won on Saturday with a second-round knockout of Derek Brunson. And when it happens, Booker T is predicting that Adesanya will have then successfully defended his belt five times.
“A puncher’s chance [is what Cannonier has],” Booker T said. “Every fighter has a chance when they go in that octagon. You go back to Matt Serra — no one ever thought in a million years that he was gonna win that fight, but he went in there with a puncher’s chance and that’s all it took. One big punch.
“Cannonier can win that fight just because he’s a dog. He’s not going to quit. Brunson had that fight won. On all scorecards, Brunson had that fight won, but that’s what you cannot predict in the fight game, is how it’s going to end up if you don’t get that guy out of there, and Cannonier proved it. It’s going to be a tough fight for Cannonier against Izzy just because he’s never going to be in one spot at any given time to be hit, and he’s going to be on offense the whole time. That’s the problem with Izzy.”