Israel Adesanya is ready to prove the naysayers wrong.
After back-to-back wins over Kelvin Gastelum and Robert Whittaker, the latter of which crowned him UFC middleweight champion, Adesanya faced Yoel Romero next and won a fight many deemed lackluster.
The usually patient Romero came out with a strange strategy early that had him standing completely still at a certain point. Throughout the fight, Adesanya was able to chop away at his legs and outpointed him for a unanimous decision win.
It’s a performance he received a lot of criticism for, but Adesanya (19-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) is looking to erase people’s short memories with a good showing against his next challenger, Paulo Costa.
“I look forward to this game because a lot of people after that fight – it’s perfect: I let them sleep on me,” Adesanya told MMA Junkie. “In the movie of my life, even in my documentary – like every movie, things are going great and then you need, ‘Oh, something bad’s happened,’ and then you need the finish of the movie where it rises up again.
“The last fight, because of the criticism unjustly that I got, the dip, it’s like the negative part of the movie. And then this bit is going to be the bit where I just blow everything out of the water and I just rise to the occasion and everyone is like, ‘I can’t believe he did that.’ You guys are going to be really surprised. It’s going to be etches of UFC 126, (Vitor) Belfort vs. (Anderson) Silva, that type of (expletive). You’re going to be really surprised at how this fight plays out because everyone is already counting me out.”
Adesanya projects that he will likely face Costa sometime in the summer, preferably on “Fight Island.”
“I like ‘Fight Island,’” Adesanya said. “The movie, like the cinema I have in my head – because I’m the protagonist, right, and Costa would be the antagonist in the end of this movie – and to finish it off on ‘Fight Island,’ that just seems like some ‘Mortal Kombat’ type of (expletive). It’s just like, you couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
Also undefeated, Costa has barreled his way through competition, with his heavy pressure and aggressive style.
But Adesanya isn’t fazed by Costa’s power.
“I brought back my counter striking game for the Robert Whittaker fight, but also before that, you guys have seen like in the Kelvin Gastelum fight, I showed my toughness. I showed I can be aggressive. I showed I can walk people down,” Adesanya said. “You will be surprised how I’m going to walk this guy down at a certain point in this fight, how he’ll be the one taking a backward step.
“It’s finishing – I’m knocking him out. That’s how I feel. It’s kill or be killed. Don’t get me wrong – like, I don’t think he’s going to catch me, and if he does, he’ll be quite surprised at my durability because a lot of people forget. They say, ‘Oh, he was scared of Romero’s power.’ It’s like, do you know how many (expletives) I’ve fought in this game – not just in MMA, but in kickboxing? Everyone has power, but there’s levels to this power (expletive).”
Adesanya has gone five rounds three times in his career, while Costa made it to the third round for the first time in his most recent outing vs. Romero, giving Adesanya the edge in the in-cage experience.
And Adesanya doesn’t think he’ll be able to keep up with him.
“I look forward to the challenge, and I’ve seen this style so many times,” Adesanya said. “He’s orthodox. He’s very good. He’s very basic, but so am I. But at the same time, I can be different. I’m the one who will dictate this fight – the pace of this fight will be dictated by me because you know who has the pace in this fight and we know it’s not him because he doesn’t have the pace or the gas tank to (expletive) with me.”