Sean Strickland is already making friends in Australia.
Ahead of his middleweight title fight against champion Israel Adesanya in the main event of UFC 293 this Saturday in Sydney, Strickland told Fox Sports Australia that he has already had to get physical with one of Adesanya’s supporters who rubbed him the wrong way.
According to Strickland, a fan approached him on Sunday around Bondi Junction, which didn’t seem like cause for alarm at first as the fighter assumed that they just wanted to take a picture. However, when the fan told Strickland, “Izzy is gunna f*** you up,’ Strickland punched him in the stomach.
“Boom, right in the guts,” Strickland said. “I’d only been in Australia a day and already I’d committed an assault. Initially, I thought the guy was coming up for a photo. Because anybody who wants a photo, man, I love the fans. But if you wanna come up to me and run your f…ing mouth, I’ll smack you like I smack anybody else.
“Uppercut to his stomach. Then I walked away. But if I see the guy again, man, no problems. ... I’ll thank him for not pressing charges.”
In addition to establishing himself as a UFC middleweight—7-2 since moving up to 185 pounds—Strickland’s public profile has risen over the past few years due to his willingness to make outlandish and offensive comments in interviews and on social media. So his latest claim should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
That said, it’s not a stretch to imagine Strickland having a short temper when it comes to people invading his personal space. He has previously said he “would love” to kill someone in a sanctioned fight and admitted in that same interview that the UFC would not want to see him with a title around his waist.
Strickland could make that happen Saturday if he shocks the world with an upset of Adesanya, whose personality he has repeatedly criticized. While he praises Adesanya for being true to himself, it doesn’t mean that Strickland has to like that truth.
“Izzy is authentic,” Strickland said. “He paints his nails, is very authentic to what he is. He’s just another guy with a lot of money who is trying to be a superstar. He doesn’t give a f*** about me, doesn’t give a f*** about you, doesn’t give a f*** about the world. I was in the airport once and took a picture with some guy and he thanked me. He said ‘Man, I just did the same with Izzy and he was such an a-hole, he wouldn’t even shake my hand.’ People care about the perception we give off. And the perception Izzy gives off is that he’s a superstar.
“He’s stuck up. “I’ve heard people inside of the organization say, out of the organization, people like me because I’m authentic. I don’t wear a pearl necklace. I don’t drive a BMW. I don’t wear designer clothes. So people like me because I represent them. People don’t like Izzy because he thinks he’s better than everyone else — the way he dresses, the way he talks, the way he acts. If Izzy could learn anything from me it’s get off your high horse, people will like you a bit better.”