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Jared Cannonier recalls ‘interesting’ first interaction with Israel Adesanya backstage

UFC middleweight title challenger Jared Cannonier has a polite word for being chosen by champ Israel Adesanya for a title shot at UFC 276: intriguing.

“It is intriguing to see the champ is picking and choosing his fights,” Cannonier told reporters at a media day for Saturday’s pay-per-view event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “And whatever he sees is intriguing to him. So it’s all good.”

In other words, Cannonier isn’t going to read too much into Adesanya’s move. Whether it’s disrespectful or not, the result is the same: a chance to be a UFC champ.

If Cannonier were to read into anything, it might be his first backstage interaction with Adesanya. When he made his middleweight debut at UFC 230, Adesanya was then a fast-rising contender and earned a stoppage win over Derek Brunson two fights before he stopped David Branch.

“We all know the dogs pissing and things like that,” Cannonier said. “But what we don’t know is that backstage, me and him actually came face-to-face, and I introduced myself, because I had been a fan of his already; we were fighting on the same card. I thought that was pretty cool.

“I congratulated him on his fight, because I got to watch his fight, and it was kind of interesting, because he was respectful, but it felt like he was kind of sizing me up at the same time. And he even said, ‘We’ll see each other.’ I was like, ‘Oh, well s***, if we do, let’s have a good-ass fight.’ He said, ‘Oh yeah.” He pretty much re-affirmed or re-asserted the fact that we’ll fight again.”

Cannonier wasn’t particularly looking to mark his territory. Rather, he said, he was “giving his energy. Adesanya may have gone a different direction.

It took four years to go from interesting to intriguing. Adesanya is now the dominant titleholder after a series of title defenses, and Cannonier has overcome obstacles to make himself an attractive option to the champ.

“It was pretty interesting that here we are now,” Cannonier continued. “We even took a picture with Mike, the post-fight ops guy, so we might be able to find that somewhere. So this thing has been brewing for quite a long time, way before the videos that we’ve seen out there.

“I happy to be in this position. I’m happy to have the challenge that Israel is going to bring. I expect it’s going to bring a different level out of me, and I plan on bringing a different level anyway. I’m excited, but I’m more prepared than exciting.”

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