Reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight king Israel Adesanya is quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in all of MMA. “Last Stylebender” is undefeated at 185 pounds, has racked off three-straight title defenses, and just signed a new lucrative contract that will make him one of the highest paid athletes under the UFC banner.
While Adesanya just signed his deal earlier this week he hasn’t had the time to really take it in. The new contract should set Adesanya up for the rest of his life, but “Last Stylebender” isn’t focusing on money right now. The defending UFC middleweight champion is gearing up to meet Robert Whittaker in a rematch this weekend at UFC 271 live on ESPN+ PPV from inside Toyota Center in Houston, Tex., which is obviously taking up all of his attention.
“It hasn’t hit me yet to be honest,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting. “I know it’s a big deal. I know that because [my coach] Eugene [Bareman] and [my manager] Tim [Simpson] and even my father congratulated me several times.
“We had moments but it really hasn’t hit me cause as much as I’m doing this for the money, it’s not just about the money. It’s about kicking ass and taking names but it’s a delicious deal and I’m satisfied with it … for now. I’m not done yet.”
Getting paid is a big part of competing in prize fighting, but with great power comes great responsibility. In other words, fighters who land big contracts or see their stardom rise under the bright lights of the Octagon need to understand the risks of becoming such a big draw for the promotion. Former champions like Jon Jones and Conor McGregor have found this out the hard way as they’ve been unable to stay out of trouble outside of the cage. Money and fame are a tough thing to keep a lid on and they’ve proven that time and time again.
Luckily for Adesanya, he has surrounded himself with the proper support system to not only keep him in check, but to challenge him to be a better all-around person.
“Knock on wood, you won’t catch me on TMZ doing something crazy,” Adesanya said. “Because I have the right people around me. The right people who ground me. I keep my circle very tight and I make sure I’m loved.
“I’m surrounded by people who actually give a f*ck about me, who love me, who want the best for me and vice versa and I do the same for them. I’ve evolved but I keep the same energy. I said that from the jump. I keep the same energy.”
Adesanya, who only made his UFC debut four years ago, has believed in himself from the very beginning. For the most part, “Last Stylebender” has outshined every opponent he has faced and has looked as dominant as any champion in UFC middleweight history. The 32-year-old star may be a few years away from catching the likes of Anderson Silva, but Adesanya is doing pretty good for himself and is taking each step with an open mind for learning and correcting his mistakes.
“I’m not saying I’m perfect,” Adesanya said. “I’m not a f*cking saint. I’m just a person. There’s no good or bad people. They’re just people and people are capable of great good and great evil. Yeah, I have my flaws. I have things I’m not proud of. I have a past as well. But I learn from my mistakes unlike some people. I actually learn from my mistakes and I never repeat them again.
“That’s why I’m on the path that I’m on and also what I said before, I have the right people around me who love me and want the best for me.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 271 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
For more news and notes on UFC 271 be sure to visit our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated, revised, and finalized “Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.