Israel Adesanya is only nine fights deep into his UFC career and the middleweight champion is already trying to solidify his legacy in the sport.
It’s not only a testament to how good the 185-pound champion has been, but also how “Last Stylebender” is approaching his UFC career.
Adesanya, who turned 31 this past July, is already one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. The former kickboxing standout has produced a 9-0 record inside of the Octagon while knocking off notable contenders like Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Kelvin Gastelum, and Derek Brunson. Outside of a potential rematch with Whittaker there isn’t much left for Adesanya at the middleweight level.
That’s why “Last Sylebender” is taking his talents to 205 pounds early next year to take a shot at current UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. Adesanya was expected to move up in weight to fight budding rival Jon Jones, but “Bones” vacated his UFC strap earlier this year in pursuit of a move to heavyweight.
“Definitely catching that belt will add to my legacy,” Adesanya told MMA Junkie Radio. “Jumping up in weight, that will add to my legacy. I could just stay at middleweight and clean everyone up. But I’ve done it in boxing, I’ve done it in kickboxing, so I’m going to do it in MMA. That’s my next fight. It’s almost three years in the company and look what I’ve done. Now I’m about to move up in weight and grab another one.”
Fortunately for those contenders waiting in line at 185 pounds, Adesanya plans to move back down in weight once he’s able to claim the light heavyweight title. Champions who move up in weight tend to stay in their new divisions so it’s nice to know “Last Stylebender” still has future plans for his 185-pound belt.
“I’m going to come back down,” Adesanya said. “185 is easy for me to make. I make 185 like it’s nothing. I’m even under weight at most of my weigh-ins, so it’s not like it’s a struggle for me to make 185. That’s my fighting weight. 205 is just fun and games. It’s work. It’s a challenge. It’s what livens me. I like doing things that many people would run away from.”
When Whittaker defeated Jared Cannonier last month at UFC 254 many believed he’d be matched up against Adesanya in a rematch. Remember, Adesanya defeated Whittaker via knockout back at UFC 243 to claim the undisputed middleweight title. The two have been on a collision course ever since, but Adesanya doesn’t believe Whittaker earned the rematch with his latest performance.
“I can be honest and say in the fact that I wasn’t too impressed with the performance (against Cannonier),” Adesanya said. “He did well, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t too impressed to be like, ‘OK, let me get this guy again.’ If he went in there and (expletive) up Cannonier in a way that was mind-blowing and finished him, it might’ve got me looking at him different, like, ‘OK, you’ve changed.’ It didn’t really light that spark. I feel like I would do the same thing again.”
For now, Adesanya will move up in weight and try to become the promotion’s next double champ. If he’s able to accomplish that it will be hard not to consider “Last Stylebender” the best fighter in the sport, especially if fellow undefeated UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov stays retired.