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Israel Adesanya says Sean Strickland ‘selling wolf tickets’ just like Paulo Costa: ‘These guys are fugazi’

Israel Adesanya acknowledged all the ways Sean Strickland has tried to insult him leading up to UFC 293, but he’s been here before with other loudmouthed opponents from his past.

Back in 2020, the UFC’s reigning middleweight champion was set up for a grudge match against Paulo Costa, who had rattled off 13 wins to start his career, including a perfect 5-0 résumé in the octagon. Costa rarely had a kind word to say about Adesanya, and he made promises that he would violently dethrone Adesanya when they finally met in the cage.

Adesanya then dispatched Costa with a vicious knockout inside two rounds.

This time around, Adesanya has heard Strickland talk trash about his manhood, where he’s fought throughout his career, and even his choice to wear nail polish during some past fights — and it’s oddly reminiscent to the buildup he had with Costa.

“It just feels like, again.” Adesanya said when comparing Strickland to Costa at UFC 293 media day. “All that energy before the fight, and then I saw [Costa] at the hotel and I checked him and tested him and [said], ‘You’re solid,’ and all that energy was gone. It’s all for cameras and show. Because I was right there with my manager, no security. I didn’t even have my guys with me back then. It was just me and my manager. If you wanted to give that energy, you could have given it right there. These guys are fugazi.

“There’s certain guys you don’t f*** with because you know it’s on-sight. It just feels familiar. Before that fight, before my UFC debut, I felt this energy before where guys try to be boisterous, ‘Hold me back bro!.’ That kind of vibe. They don’t really want to fight. They just act like they want to fight. I know that energy, so it’s familiar to me, and I love to fight and we’re going to fight.”

Adesanya revealed a similar incident with Strickland when they apparently ran into each other backstage at a separate UFC event.

That encounter colored Adesanya’s opinion on Strickland, especially after the always outspoken middleweight contender took numerous shots at him when they shared the stage together at the UFC 276 press conference.

“You only have one chance to make a first impression and he already failed that when I tapped him on the ass,” Adesanya explained. “You saw the receipts, right? I wasn’t trying to be a d***. I was just saying hello and then he gets on stage [at the press conference] and starts talking s*** — ‘I’m going to come down there and you can get my number.‘ After that backstage, he just beelines away from me. I was like, ‘Alright, cap.’ Any time he now tries to act tough in front of people, it just doesn’t have the same sting at all.

“There’s no danger with him. Last time I saw him in Vegas, I smacked him in the d*** because I knew he wasn’t dangerous to me. He tried to push me, ‘Don’t touch me, bro!’ and I just jumped over my seat and kept watching my fights.”

Adesanya extends his comparisons between Strickland and Costa to their fighting styles as well, which is where he feels like they’ve both gotten by beating up on lesser competition.

“He looks good against guys who are human punching bags,” Adesanya said of Strickland. “Roll back the tape. UFC 253, I said the same thing about Paulo Costa. This is not my ego talking. This is just me speaking strictly facts. I said Paulo looks good against guys who were human punching bags. Look at Sean’s last fight. He fought [Abus Magomedov] and he was a f****** human punching bag. Just stood there and got beat the f*** up. I told you guys, Paulo will not catch me. I will catch him eventually. I told him I was going to knock him the f*** out and I did. Again, this is not my ego talking. This is just facts.

“Sean fights guys and looks good against them because they let him look good against them and they let him get in their head. Again, I’ve done this how many times? This is déjà vu to me. All this s*** is semi-fun, but what I really want to do is just fight. I really want to fight and showcase and watch my team showcase before me. All that’s cap.”

During his own question and answer session, Strickland confessed that he put a lot of time into his wrestling and grappling to potentially use that as a weapon against Adesanya.

At the same time, Strickland also acknowledged that many times his game plan goes flying out the window once the fight starts and he just reverts back to his striking roots, which is exactly where Adesanya is strongest.

Whether it’s a stand-up war or a battle on the ground, Adesanya promises he’s ready for whatever gets thrown at him, although he suspects Strickland isn’t really interested in trading punches and kicks with him for five rounds.

“He’s selling wolf tickets when he talks about that,” Adesanya said. “I don’t think he’s going to man dance with me, and if he does, I’m a better dancer than him.”

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