Mixed martial artist, Israel Adesanya savours contesting against an athlete he’s looked up to while growing up.
Concise News reports that Adesanya comfortably out-point Brazilian legend Anderson Silva in Melbourne, Australia on Sunday.
“He’s still got it, make no mistake,” Adesanya says. “People were saying ‘are you going to go easy on ‘The Spider?” I was going in there hoping to take him out but I’m not stupid.
“I’m not like everyone else he’s fought where he beckons them on and they fall into the spider’s web.”
The New Zealand-Nigerian is determined that the next time he enters the octagon will be for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight title.
Elevated to the main event at UFC 234 after champion Robert Whittaker was forced to withdraw from his defence against Kelvin Gastelum with a severe abdominal injury, Adesanya delivered a Fight of the Night performance to extend his unbeaten record to 16-0 (5-0 in the UFC).
The 29-year-old never looked in any serious danger against Silva, prevailing in a tactical battle to win 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 on the judges’ scorecards.
The match-up was originally meant to be for the number one contender position. However, Whittaker’s injury has muddied the middleweight picture for the time being.
There was no confusion for Adesanya, though.
“I’m the number one contender, I’m the guy fighting for the belt,” ‘The Last Stylebender’ says in his post-fight press conference. “I don’t care, Kelvin or Rob, whoever it is, I’m fighting for the belt.
“I did my job, I showed up to work.”
Adesanya and Gastelum for that matter will likely have to wait until Whittaker’s status becomes clearer before they figure out their next move.
Adesanya’s victory over Silva was not as explosive as many had hoped but UFC president Dana White slammed critics who had written off the 43-year-old former champion before the fight.
After a slow first round, Silva surprised with his ability to keep up with Adesanya in the second. The Kiwi then showed his class in the third, battering Silva’s legs while landing a total of 65 significant strikes to 31.
With so many similarities in style, the result was seen as a torch-passing moment between the two fighters.
The triumph of the man who has his roots in Africa made it three from three for Auckland’s City Kickboxing gym, with teammates Shane Young and Kai Kara-France also coming away with decision wins.
That made the day sweeter for Adesanya.
“We were in the trenches together, us three, working hard for so long. So the fact that we all got a win, it’s history. And it puts NZ MMA, Australasia MMA on the map.”
Meanwhile, White signalled his intention to bring the UFC back to New Zealand for a third time, despite not giving a timeframe.
New Zealand last hosted a UFC event in June 2017.
“Well look at Israel now,” he says. “The answer to that question is yes.
“This part of the world has blown up so much. Not only are there tons of guys fighting, but there are also tons of talented people here, who are going to climb up into the ranks and possibly become world champions someday.”
Watch fight below