Words: Gareth A. Davis (MMA Correspondent for The Telegraph, London, UK)
Adesanya’s talk suggests fame has gone to his head.
The intensity of fan reaction to the UFC’s newest shiny star, Israel Adesanya, suddenly elevated to the overnight God-like status buy the masses, is as far fetched as the pronouncements from the brilliant fighter himself -made in Nigeria, but honed in New Zealand -that he would now have the mixed martial arts super powers to take on Jon Jones and even Stipe Miocic. God help us. Worse than that, what was the picogram of delusion that Eugene Bareman, Adesanya’s coach, had imbibed when he told Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show that they would rather give the honour of a fight with ‘Stylebender’ to heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic than light heavyweight champion Jones. Bateman said that he was on the same page in taking the view that they would not permit “a person of Jon’s nature the opportunity that Israel can bestow upon him.” Staggering what a great victory and fame can do to create platforms for nonsensical arguments.
Now there is little doubt that Adesanya has MMA skills which could almost see him drawn into a Marvel Comic hero, without question abilities that we can sing back and be wowed by, time and time again, and indeed, on the nearby spinning plate, Mr Jones has shown in recent times that there are cracks in his impermeability (he has fallen down those cracks in his life at times in the last four years) but can we at least be realistic for a moment, in fighting terms?
‘Stylebender’ had life and death with Kelvin Gastelum, who, if disciplined with his diet, should really be a welterweight. In truth, Adesanya should never be allowed anywhere near Jones, let alone Miocic, though Jones vs Miocic would have all of us there in a heartbeat. There is a second point here, and it involves the UFC. They are the promoters, not Bareman, or ‘Stylebender’. Yet what was so brilliant and to be admired about Adesanya in his performance against Robert Whittaker (who was clearly showing the signs of a long time away from the Octagon), was the way in which he made his Australian foe on edge, and forced him to fight out of character.
Call me cynical – and Adesanya’s dancing entrance and showmanship are extraordinary -but does our new special alumnus from Down Under not have a similar style, and dare I say physique, as Anderson Silva, Michael Venom Page et al, whose skills are sublime, yet whose make-up dictates that they have a vulnerability around the whiskers. Haven’t we seen this all before ?Run of amazing finishes and knockouts until someone heavy handed just ploughs through the mist of mystique surrounding them when they fight and just puts them to sleep, and they are never the same again. Or is that just part of the appeal… ?The nonsense Bareman was putting out -about Jones -was at odds with his charge, Adesanya, who was in full ‘Jones goad mode’ in the days after his thrilling denouement against Whitaker. The New Zealander posted a video of his new US$650,000 McLaren sports car, with the caption: “Feelin’ cute might crash into a pregnant lady later”, a crass reference to Jones’ 2015 hit and run incident. There was more: “I want all the picograms of freshly squeezed juice” followed by an emoji of an injection needle, and put Jones’ initial insult down to “roid rage”. And even more,with Adesanya saying that he had “never used d*** pills in my life,” before mocking another failed test by Jones in 2016 down to a male-enhancement pill. “My balls still produce testosterone as they should cuz I have never taken testosterone from any external substance.” It was to the point, but lacked humour.
Adesanya is not a fighter who can promote himself with the gift of the gab of, say, Conor McGregor, who swallowed the Blarney Stone. No, Adesanya is a Stylebender, a knockout artist. Beyond that, who knows … but if he really thinks he has what it takes to beat Jones, as well as insult him, let’s see them fight. And soon. I suspect at that level, that weight, Adesanya is just a shooting star.