UFC middleweight Israel Adesanya is preparing for the first title defense of his new reign against Sean Strickland at this Saturday’s UFC 293 at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He’s been doing quite a bit of talking to the press headed into the event, as one does.
Will the UFC 290 ‘African brother’ build-up be wasted
For a minute there it looked like the UFC had the perfect middleweight title fight: Israel Adesanya vs Dricus Du Plessis. The heat that was built by Adesanya’s post-fight Octagon appearance at UFC 290 was legit and had the MMA world talking for days.
It was culturally charged, had been a long-time coming and clearly had meaning for both fighters: Adesanya, the Nigerian by way of New Zealand and Du Plessis the Afrikaner(South African of Dutch or Boer descent) who had somewhat dubiously attempted to claim the title of “more African” in previous interviews then disavowed the statements later.
The best part was it came after Du Plessis upset Robert Whittaker and silenced the doubters who didn’t think him a worthy contender. The way Du Plessis tore through Whittaker stunned the haters and made many wonder if he continued to dramatically improve, maybe he could even beat Adesanye?
Could we get a competitive middleweight title fight between bitter rivals whose differences reflect tectonic plates in pan-African politics?
But alas, this is the UFC and we don’t get nice things. Instead we’re getting Israel Adesanya vs. Sean Strickland.
Israel Adesanya not lacking confidence vs. Strickland
“Definitely take someone’s breath away,” Adesanya said of his goals. “I definitely just want to submit a couple of people. I’ve done the Fight of the Night bullsh*t – it’s not for me. I like clean executions. I’ve had great performances, I’ve had shut-outs, I’ve had a loss, I’ve had a comeback – great comebacks. I think (I want to) showcase my grappling a little bit more, and just take some limbs, take some breaths away.
“What do I want in my career? Submission – I definitely want a submission,” Adesanya said. “It might be this fight. I know he’s going to wrestle. He’d be dumb not to. I know he’s going to try and mix it up. He’s doing this whole thing: ‘Man dance … man dance.’ He’s going to crotch sniff. That’s what he’s going to do.
“He’s got smart coaches and they will definitely beat it into him,” Adesanya said. “I know they’ve been talking about it and he’s like, ‘What? Crotch sniff? I’m going to box.’ You really think he’s going to box with me? The Pereira fight, I called it. I told him focus on your f*cking job because he’s going to knock you out. What did he do? He knocked him out because he wasn’t focused on his job. He was focused on me.”
Adesanya and Dana White talk future MW title picture
Most fans expected a Pan-African grudge match against Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 293 but Du Plessis declined to fight so soon after his UFC 290 win over Robert Whittaker in July. Now it appears that UFC boss Dana White intends to punish the South African for that decision.
“You know how much I love when guys turn down fights,” White said this week in Las Vegas. “I don’t know. We’ll see what happens on Saturday and then we’ll go from there.”
Adesanya seems to understand where Dana is coming from based on his comments at UFC 293 media day.
“Dricus doesn’t know how to play the game,” Adesanya said. “Look, you can’t sit on your f*cking, is it ranking or whatever, and think you’ve got it locked in. This is the UFC. If you look back at the history of the UFC, s*it happens.
“So he thought he was sitting pretty, but he might have to fight two more times before I get a shot at this. But he doesn’t call the shots. I do. I need you to understand that. I call the shots.
“You don’t call the shot, dickless. You need to understand this. You can sit pretty wherever you want, but if I decide to, I might give [the title shot] to whoever wins between [Paulo] Costa and Khamzat [Chimaev], not you.”
Adesanya already indicated a preference for Chimaev
“I don’t know who’s going to win but I think if I’m favoring, I might be favoring Khamzat a little bit more,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting. “Because I like new blood.”
Israel Adesanya humbled Costa at UFC 253 in 2020, finishing him via TKO in the second round.
“I just made Paulo look easy but trust me, he’s a hard fight,” Adesanya said. “He’s a hard fight but I made him look easy. But I think I’m rooting for Khamzat more in that fight.”
Costa has only gone 1-1 since that time, dropping a decision to Marvin Vettori in a short-lived move up to 205 pounds and decisioning the since-retired Luke Rockhold in his return to middleweight.
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