‘Mental block’ – Coach explains Israel Adesanya’s UFC 293 performance against Sean Strickland

Israel Adesanya's coach Eugene Bareman speaks on the ex-champ's behalf about what transpired at UFC 293.

By: Milan Ordoñez | 2 weeks ago
‘Mental block’ – Coach explains Israel Adesanya’s UFC 293 performance against Sean Strickland
IMAGO | Dan Himbrechts / AAP

Israel Adesanya entered UFC 293 as a hefty favorite against Sean Strickland. Instead, an uncharacteristic performance from “The Last Stylebender” transpired during the fight, leading to an upset unanimous decision victory for the challenger. 

Izzy gave a few short words to the media and took off, leaving his coach Eugene Bareman to speak on his behalf. 

The assessment of Israel Adesanya’s UFC 293 performance

UFC president Dana White was the first to speak to reporters in attendance about Israel Adesanya’s performance. And he didn’t mince his words. 

“Israel looked like he was in slow motion. He looked like he couldn’t get off. He looked like he was really stiff tonight. He looked very slow. 

“Some days you wake up, and it’s just not there, man. He looked bone dry when he came out tonight. Standing up really tall… even in the fifth round when everybody knew he needed a knockout to win the fight. There was no sense of urgency to try to finish the fight.” 

Bareman concurred with the bossman’s statements during his turn on the mic and gave their side of the story. 

“He had an off-night. Training camp was great. I’m not gonna make any excuses in regard to that. Leading up to the fight, fight week was great. Sparring partners, everything, all the technical little things to do at the camp, they were all perfect,” he explained. 

“He couldn’t see the same things we were seeing. We couldn’t make a good connection in the corner. It was just a frustrating night. It was a frustrating night because of the opponent. Don’t take nothing away from the opponent.” 

The ‘mental block’ Israel Adesanya faced

At least for his part, Bareman says he never took Strickland lightly as an opponent. 

“The universe does things… I think Sean’s a great fighter. And I never once thought that Sean wasn’t capable of beating Israel. But I thought if Israel performed to the fullest of his capabilities, it would be a very hard fight for Sean. 

“There was an alternate kind of universe where Israel performs poorest, or poorly, where Sean could win. And I’m sitting in that universe right now.” 

UFC 293 SYDNEY, Israel Adesanya of Nigeria (left) and Sean Strickland of the USA during the Middleweight Title bout of UFC 293 at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Sunday, September 10, 2023. ( !ACHTUNG: NUR REDAKTIONELLE NUTZUNG, KEINE ARCHIVIERUNG UND KEINE BUCHNUTZUNG! SYDNEY NEW SOUTH WALES AUSTRALIA PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxAUSxNZLxPNGxFIJxVANxSOLxTGA Copyright: xDANxHIMBRECHTSx 20230910001839940949
IMAGO | Dan Himbrechts / AAP

He then spoke about Strickland’s strategy and how it ultimately presented headaches that Israel Adesanya couldn’t handle. 

“He made Israel very hesitant, and again, that’s all credit to him,” Bareman said of the newly-crowned champion. “He bit down and threw every time Israel threw. He countered no matter what. When Israel came in 50 percent of the time, 65 percent of the time, a hundred percent of the time, Sean was gonna bite down and counter. 

“And when you’re faced with that proposition, that’s very, very difficult. There’s a mental block that’s put up. And you have to find a way to get around that mental block. And Israel struggled with that all night. And we struggled with it as well.” 

Team Adesanya on an immediate rematch

In his conversation with the media, UFC president Dana White stated he was willing to book an immediate rematch between Israel Adesanya and Sean Strickland. Bareman is more than welcome to have a chance to right the wrong despite the challenges that rematch camps present. 

“As you’re trying to find other stones to leave unturned, you’ve already haven’t left a stone unturned. It’s almost an impossible task. You’re trying to find another level above the level you’ve already achieved,” he explained. “So it’s very, very difficult when you go into these rematch camps, and at this level, I’ve done a few. 

“But I don’t think we have to change too much, but we will find something because we have the benefit of time. 

“We’ll find something to add to this camp and we’ll win the rematch.” 

Israel Adesanya is now 1-2 in his last three fights, a rarity for someone of his caliber. He dropped to a record of 24-3 after UFC 293. 

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About the author
Milan Ordoñez
Milan Ordoñez

Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments.

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