Israel Adesanya’s quest for domination a weight class up ended at UFC 259, not with a bang but with a whimper. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight champion got out-pointed in an extremely tactical fight by Light Heavyweight kingpin, Jan Blachowicz, who kept things tight and workmanlike en route to a 49–46, 49–45, 49–45 unanimous decision (watch the highlights here).
To his credit, Adesanya accepted the loss with a lot of grace and gave full credit to Blachowicz and his team, who put the brakes on his hopes of becoming a double champion and eventually facing Jon Jones in a big money “super” fight.
“Losses are part of life and losses are something I deal with occasionally,” Adesanya said during the post-fight press conference. “This is just my first one in MMA. As I say, it is what it is. If I was going to lose to anyone, what better guy to lose to than a guy like Jan? A classy champion, a cool dude, a very nice guy, a guy who has a great story in himself. On his way to getting cut from the company, comes back and then dominates and becomes the light heavyweight champion and then hands this guy, a future legend, his first loss? Yeah, if I was going to lose to anyone, I’m glad I lost to him.
“I lost the fight to the better fighter tonight,” he continued. “The craftier fighter tonight. But it wasn’t like an ass whooping or anything. When he had me on the ground, if he had postured up and then wailed on me and thrown some crazy elbows and crazy punches and connected crazy, yeah I can say give it a 10-8, give a 10-7 even. Use the whole 10-point must system, but there was none of that. He just held on and snuck some shots in to keep busy enough that the referee doesn’t stand it up and that’s a veteran move, cuz he’s a veteran in this game.”
As for whether Adesanya regretted the decision to move up when he could have stayed and nursed his unbeaten record at 185 pounds?
“No regrets,” Adesanya said. “Like I said, I feel like boxing or the boxing model has made it a bad thing to lose. Yeah, it sucks losing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like the end of the world. Like I said, I’ve lost before in the past. And one of my friends — BDK, rest in peace — said, ‘I’ve lost many times but I remain undefeated.’ Me and my team are excited to get home and work on certain little details. Cuz I was drawing him out, he was trying to parry my jab and I had an opening for my change up. And yeah, he had good defense, he had an answer for a lot I was throwing at him.
“You’ll see me back at 205 later in the future,” he continued. “Right now, I’ve got a division I’ve got to dominate. I know what they’re thinking, ‘oh, that’s it, you’ve just got to take him down and then you’ve got him.’ All right, cool. Bet, but I’ll remind them again why I’m the king of 185.”
Immediately after the fight, Adesanya said he felt like that wasn’t his best performance, and he built on that sentiment during the press conference.
“Honestly, I could have won this fight,” he said. “But tonight he played a better gameplan, and he was the better fighter tonight. That’s it. He respected me, and I respected him, and we had a great showing of ourselves. I’m not like heartbroken. I hate losing, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not like, ‘Oh my god. F—k, he really embarrassed me. Like, that was it.’ Nah, I felt like I had a great showing for myself. I represented my team well. But now we go back to the drawing board and it’s kind of fun. I look forward to this, it’s my dip in the story, my valley. Then, I’ll rise again like the phoenix that I am.”
“I took his best punches and everyone was like, ‘When you get touched by this guy, you go to sleep!’ I’m awake.... He just had his defense really tight for this fight. He wasn’t as careless as I was expecting because I was expecting a careless Jan. And I thought I would draw out some mistakes from him, which I did, but then he was able to fix those mistakes on the fly. Man, credit to that guy and his team. They put on one hell of a gameplan and got their guy ready.”
In the end, Adesanya apologized to his fans, but made it clear this would just a speed bump on route to greater glory.
“We’re just stopping for a little gas, understand?” Adesanya said. “You can get the f—k off but if you want to stick with me, stick with me and trust me, I’ll show you a good time. It’s going to be a fun ride. I appreciate y’all.”
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